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Stadium jolt kills wrestler

National-level player a victim of apathy at condemned building

By A.S.R.P. Mukesh in Ranchi
  • Published 9.08.17
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(From top) A player shows the flooded washroom at Jharkhand State Wrestling Association office, housed inside the run-down Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi, where Vishal Kumar received the fatal jolt on Tuesday afternoon. Pictures by Prashant Mitra

Ranchi, Aug. 8: A 22-year-old national-level wrestler was electrocuted this afternoon at the office of the state association functioning out of a condemned building at Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi, the tragedy underscoring the apathy and criminal neglect of safety that plague sport in Jharkhand.

Terming the death of Upper Bazaar resident Vishal Kumar an irreparable loss, the state wrestling outfit announced Rs 1 lakh as compensation to his bereaved family while sportspersons lambasted the district authorities for turning a blind eye to the crumbling condition of a games facility at a time when Jharkhand was trying to project itself as a world-class sport destination.

Vishal was visiting the wrestling association office for some work around 2pm when a live wire hanging loose in the flooded washroom dealt the fatal jolt. A fellow wrestler found him in a semiconscious state and, with the help of others, tried to rush him to Ranchi Sadar Hospital. Vishal died on the way.

Kotwali thana OC S.N. Mandal confirmed death by electrocution. "A case of unnatural death has been registered, but we will probe why a live wire was hanging loose in the bathroom," he said.

Ghanesh Jha, general manager of Jharkhand Bijli Vitran Nigam, said they had sent an engineer to the site after the accident. "The fault is not on our side. It must be some internal problem of wiring," he said.

Apart from the wrestling association, the local unit of Amateur Silambam Federation of India has its office at Jaipal Singh Stadium while the sports department shifted its kabaddi day boarding centre to Birsa Munda Football Stadium a couple of weeks ago.

Those in the know said the stadium was a picture of utter neglect and apathy.

OC Mandal expressed surprise over how the building still housed offices. "It is run-down and risky, particularly in the rainy season, when the premises is often waterlogged. I am told some athletes live there too. I wonder how," he said.

Bholanath Singh, secretary of the state wrestling outfit, squarely blamed Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) for the tragedy. "The RMC has been claiming renovation of the stadium for years, but changes are far from visible. The ground floor is almost always flooded in monsoon," he said.

Asked why sportsmen still lived in the condemned building, Singh said: "A few poor players who cannot afford rent live in rooms on the first floor of the stadium. But, they will be shifted."

According to Singh, Ranchi boy Vishal began wrestling in 2005. He represented the state at various junior and senior national meets. Earlier this year, he took part in senior nationals in Greco-Roman Style in 74kg weight category held in Uttar Pradesh and ranked fourth.

Besides Rs 1 lakh, the wrestling association has announced a monthly ex gratia of Rs 10,000 to his family till one of his four sisters got a job. The association has also appealed to the state government to give Rs 10 lakh to the family.

An official of the state association, not willing to be named, said electrocution was waiting to happen at the dilapidated stadium. "The building has been labelled risky (by RMC), but players still live there and offices function. Sustained negligence has cost a life," he said.

Ranchi deputy mayor Sanjeev Vijayvargiya said the RMC had a "multicrore plan" to renovate the stadium, but admitted that the incident was an eye-opener. "We will look into the matter and take appropriate action," he added.

State sports director Ranendra Kumar said the department allocated space to games associations as and when demanded. "For example, Hockey Jharkhand has its office at the Astroturf stadium," he said, hinting that the wrestling outfit never sought a safer place to house its office.