A total of 3,008 people died in electrocution-related accidents between 2014 and 2020 in 16 districts of northern Telangana, according to information provided by the state-owned Telangana State Northern Power Distribution Company Limited (TSNPDCL) under the Right to Information Act (RTI). Of these, only 1,197 victims’ families were sanctioned ex gratia payment by the discom.
The Telangana State Electricity Regulatory Commission (TSERC) mandates discoms to pay an ex gratia amount of Rs five lakh to each of the victims’ families in cases of fatal accidents of non-departmental persons on account of electrocution in the distribution sector. While deaths from electrocution may occur due to various reasons – electric shocks caused by improper overhead wires, live wires, leakage from electric poles and faulty electrical systems – the TSERC specifies that discoms may conduct internal enquiries if needed before granting the amount.
TSERC has increased the ex gratia amount from Rs two lakh in 2013 to Rs four lakh in 2015. The amount was further increased to Rs five lakh in 2018 through successive amendments.
Most of these deaths occur in rural areas of Telangana and only those families which are socially and politically aware would often claim the ex gratia amount. However families of small and marginal farmers face numerous difficulties in claiming the amoung, said social activist Sudheer Jalagam, who had filed the RTI.
“The victims’ families need to provide legal heir certificates and other proofs to claim the amount but the authorities take several months in issuing it and delay the process,” said Jalagam. He alleged that the discoms fail to conduct periodic safety inspections, eventually resulting in such accidents.
Between 2014 and 2020, the maximum number of fatal accidents under the TSNPDCL have occured in Warangal Rural district with 178 deaths. It was followed by the districts of Kamareddy (175), Nirmal (164), Mahbubabad (163), Jagityal (160), Nizamabad (158), Peddapalli (139), Karimnagar (130), Mancherial (129), Adilabad (128), Khammam (128), Bhupalapalli (122), Bhadradri-Kothegudem (119), Jangoan (113), Warangal Urban (60) and Asifabad (53).
These are avoidable deaths if government authorities had implemented mandatory safety precautions, argued T Sagar, Secretary of Telangana Rythu Sangam, which is affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).
Speaking to NewsClick, Sagar said: “Electrical transformers are not properly covered with insulating material and leakages from electric poles due to weather changes are not timely corrected. There are also improper overhead wires on farm lands. These are the causes of such electrical accidents in rural areas which farmers fall victim to.” He added that the authorities fix electrical damage only after complaints or in the aftermath of accidents.
Another shocking trend is that such fatalities have been increasing over the years in these 16 districts – while 210 deaths were reported in 2014-15, the number increased to 537 in 2017-18 and further increased to 681 in 2019-20.
According to a report, a total of 2,237 deaths were recorded in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh due to electrocution between 2010 and 2013, the highest among states.