Lives on the Lines: The Risky Reality of Casual Laborers in the PDD.
In the comfort of our homes, shielded from scorching summers and chilling winters by the luxury of air conditioners and heaters, we often forget the unsung heroes who ensure our comfort. These heroes are the casual laborers of the Power Development Department (PDD), who work tirelessly in the harshest weather conditions to maintain a steady power supply. However, when power outages occur, we are quick to curse them without realizing the risks they undertake and the sacrifices they make for us.
These daily wage employees, with meager earnings of Rs 6,700 per month, receive no additional allowances, insurance, or concrete assurance from the government. Despite the dangers they face, they do not receive any compensation if an unfortunate incident occurs. These brave individuals put their lives on the line, often without safety gear or even proper shoes provided by the department, to restore power supply during emergencies.
Tragically, incidents of electrocution have become far too common in different parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, in Thanna Mandi, a daily wage employee of the PDD, Mohd Jahangir, lost his life while repairing a transformer. He was one of the many diligent employees responsible for maintaining the power supply and addressing any faults that arise.
In another incident, three PDD employees, Nazir Ahmad, Ghulam Mohammed, and Tariq Ahmad, suffered injuries due to electrocution in the Rawalpora area of Srinagar. Furthermore, Ghulam Qadir Khan, a PDD employee from Pathanpora Paimus Budgam, tragically lost his life while repairing a transmission line in Nasrullahpura.
These incidents continue to highlight the alarming lack of safety measures for these workers. Ishfaq Ahmed, a PDD lineman, met a similar fate while repairing a live wire in Fateh Kadal area of Srinagar district. Even Nazir Ahmed Bhat from Handwara was injured due to electric shock in Mawer Bala area of Kupwara district.
The list goes on, with casualties increasing with each passing month. When one speaks to these employees, they reveal a distressing truth - the department only provides shoes to permanent employees, leaving the casual laborers without proper footwear. Shock-proof gloves, rain hoods, and insulated trousers are nothing but distant dreams for them. Even ladders, necessary for climbing poles during repairs, are not provided. This lack of basic safety equipment puts their lives at even greater risk.
Despite the high risks of electrocution and permanent disability faced by linemen, who are predominantly casual laborers, the PDD shows little regard for safety standards. According to a report, an average of three casual laborers lose their lives every month due to electrocution while carrying out repairs and maintenance work on high tension wires. Shockingly, more than 400 casual laborers have died from electrocution in Jammu and Kashmir since 2010. These workers do not fall under any welfare schemes or receive the benefits of SRO 43, leaving their families struggling to make ends meet after their untimely demise.
Many of these employees have suffered life-altering injuries, losing limbs and being left at the mercy of their families for support. Despite promises from successive governments to address their concerns and regulate their working conditions, no concrete action has been taken. The problem persists, and these unsung heroes continue to risk their lives in service to the public without adequate support or recognition.
It is imperative that the government takes immediate action to address the plight of these casual laborers. Proper safety gear, including shoes, gloves, and insulated clothing, should be provided to all employees, regardless of their employment status. Additionally, steps must be taken to ensure compensation and welfare benefits for the families of those who have lost their lives or suffered severe injuries.
These brave individuals deserve our gratitude, recognition, and support. Their selfless dedication ensures that we can enjoy the comforts of our homes, no matter the weather. It is high time we acknowledge their sacrifices and work towards improving their working conditions, guaranteeing their safety, and providing a better future for them and their families.
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