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Life on the line

Editorial CAITLYN SAMPLEY AGGIE


Kashmir is witnessing year’s maiden and heaviest snowfall so far. Moderate to heavy snowfall begun early Sunday morning and it has been more than 24 hours since the weather disruption started throwing life out of gear in Kashmir. Connectivity by land has been suspended as snow has made travelling on Srinagar-Jammu highway a dangerous affair. Besides, due to poor visibility, hardly any flight could take off or land at Srinagar International Airport. Across Kashmir, people’s biggest concern at present is electricity, the supply of which has been massively impacted since Sunday. Several areas across the valley were without electricity as heavy snow damaged transmission lines in many urban and rural areas. Amid this, the officials of the Power Development Department (PDD), especially those on the ground including linemen and other technical staff have been working throughout the night to ensure that supply lines remain intact to some extent. Photographs of these people working during the night, fixing transmission lines show how dangerous and vulnerable their job is. These officials are seen working with hardly any safety equipment or gear that one expects to have to carry out such jobs. We see these linemen balancing themselves on mere wooden ladders, trying to fix power lines, balancing their tools and themselves in a dangerous way. Over the years, we have seen dozens of cases where these linemen were either grievously injured or had to lose their lives on the job. Just last Saturday, a PDD lineman died of electrocution in Jammu’s Reasi district. Similarly, a few weeks ago on December 12, another PDD employee was electrocuted to death after receiving an electric shock while repairing a faulty line in Machil sector of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. In April last year, yet another lineman died of electrocution as he was on the job trying to fix a transmission line in Srinagar’s Parimpora area. These are a few of the several cases where human lives are lost each year and hardly anyone tries to fix the flaw and ensure such horrible and fatal accidents do not occur in future. Unfortunately, the power department is still ill-equipped for some strange reasons to provide their on-the-ground staff with safe tools, and a proper gear to carry out such essential and equally dangerous task. And the irony is that these PDD guys are the first one whom people curse whenever electricity plays hide and seek in Kashmir. On Sunday, the government signed major power MOUs with NHPC and inaugurated as many as 19 important projects of PDD aimed at greater generation, efficient transmission, and better distribution of power supply in J&K. While such projects are always welcomed, one expects the government to also provide a safe and secure working environment for PDD employees. The Power Development Department should take note of this unresolved and critical matter ensuring that employees do not have to play with their lives while discharging the duties.