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NE India forum debates over electrocution deaths

By Nava Thakuria
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Guwahati: Understanding the gravity of the situation where India

loses nearly 10,000 people to electrocution deaths annually, a civil

society group based in Northeast has raised voices for

a total rearrangement of the power supply system in the country.

Endorsed by Gandhian Natwar Thakkar, civil liberties campaigner Dr

Gopal Krishna, senior advocate Upamanyu Hazarika, eminent

author-journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Monalisa Changkija, Bidhayak

Das with many others, the group also bats for a national debate to

reduce the standard domestic supply voltages from 240 to 120 volt or

even lower.
"India as a nation witnesses not less than 10000 people killed

annually because of electrocution. Accidental electrocution (including

few suicidal attempts) cases are reportedly high in Madhya Pradesh,

Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Andhra

Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Jharkhand, Kerala, Odisha,

Uttarkhand, Assam etc," said a statement issued by Patriotic People's

Front Assam (PPFA).
Expressing great concern over the human deaths, the forum also

highlighted that the faulty high voltage wiring arrangement kills

dozens of animals including elephants, tigers, sloth bears, monkeys,

flamingos, peacocks, etc.
Not less than 350 elephants died in the country because of

electrocution during the last five years. The list includes casualties

of over 180 flamingos, 65 leopards, 20 tigers, 15 sloth bears, 10

lions etc in the same period, it added.
Though low compared to many other States in the country, Assam loses

50 to 90 people annually to electrocution deaths. Over 975 human lives

were snatched away by the electricity related accidents in Assam since

2001, where the highest number of electrocution casualties (88) was

recorded in 2016. The first half of 2017 witnesses the electrocution

deaths to around 60 human beings.
"The statistics relating to electrocution deaths remain appalling. We

believe that a pragmatic action plan over the layout of high voltage

but low quality live wires, its timely maintenance and adequate public

awareness over the use of electrical appliances safely in the country

becomes the need of the hour," asserted the PPFA statement.

Supported by many qualified engineers including Er Tridip Sarma, Er

Islamul H. Mandal, Er Vikramjit Kakati, Er Kushal Chandra Deka, Er

Manab Changkakoti etc, the statement added that the use of bamboo or

other living trees to carry out the electrical wires should (must) be

stopped and the Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd must replace all

such temporary poles across the State with prescribed posts at the

earliest.
The forum also insists on using proper fuse wires (or other protective

systems) as a precautionary measure in all electrical systems.

Replacing thin fuse wires of low current rating with aluminum

conductors (or other wires) of high current rating in low to medium

voltage electrical equipment is nothing but inviting a disaster, it

claimed.
"As the electrical wiring can create public health hazards, the

concerned authority must deal with the safety issue in right

perspective. The State electricity departments should create a

responsive safety department along with trained safety officers at the

earliest," pointed out by Dr SI Ahmed, Dr Jagadindra Raichoudhury, Dr

Buljit Buragohain etc on behalf of the forum.
Mentioning about the future need of energy, the PPFA opined that the

government should encourages more alternate sources like solar power

in the country, particularly for northeastern States with hilly

terrains, forest covers with visible presence of wildlife, where the

laying of high voltage wires for longer distances always faces

difficulties.
Where it is possible, the underground laying of live wires, instead of

overhead electrical distribution system, should be encouraged, it

argued adding that the underground wiring system should be separated

from other utility services including the sewage canals by a

reasonable margin to avoid adversities.
"Finally India should debate whether 110/120 volt (alternate current

with 50 hertz) may be an adoptable option in place of present 220/240

volt to reduce the fatality of the system to many extent. At least

developed nations like USA, UK and even our Asian friend Japan use

lower volt lines to reduce the risk factors," stated the forum.

Otherwise, two independent live/phases (each of 110/120 volt) with one

neutral wire arrangement can be adopted where the customers may opt

for single phase line only to use in lighting (preferably with LED

bulbs), digital screening of television, computer, mobile phones etc

and low watt fans. Others, who prefer to use heavy electrical

appliances, may go for multi-phase supply lines, it explained.

"We understand that it would be a major policy shift for a country

like India involving a huge volume of resources with adequate

preparedness. But if India as a nation prefers to put its weight in

favour of precious human lives, we must actively debate over the

matter," vowed Rupam Barua, Pramod Kalita, Dhiraj Goswami etc of PPFA

adding that the qualified and practicing engineers across the country

should come out with pragmatic ideas here for an adoptable resolution

for the benefit of the nation.