Deceased, injured lineman’s family slam admin over discrimination

Union demands regularisation, salary hike and risk allowances

SHOPIAN: On December 13 last year, Ghulam Qadir Mir was electrocuted to death while repairing a high tension line in Kashnabal in Ganderbal. His family was never compensated who say that the department is silent over their ordeal and “apart from customary visits by the higher ups, the promised job for the next of their kin was never fulfilled”.
“This leaves us to fend for ourselves,” they said.
Mir has left behind his wife and four minor children. He had been working in the department as a daily wage worker for nearly eleven years.
He is not the only one to be electrocuted while working. According to daily wage workers association of the power department, 87 workers have been electrocuted while working and nearly 150 have been rendered disabled.
Abdul Ahad Dar family, an injured lineman, has been struggling to pay for the treatment of his complications following an electric shock that he received while repairing a transformer in Shopian village in 2013. His right arm had to be amputated and his left leg has been nearly disabled following that accident.
He had been admitted at SKIMS for nearly two months. The treatment cost him around Rs 1.5 lac and “not a penny was provided by the department”, he said.
His family has preserved the receipts of his medicines with a hope that they might need them for claiming the risk allowances. But they have given up now. The disability certificate that SKIMS has provided him, pronounces him 80% disabled.
“He has been bed-ridden for fifteen days after he fell while walking,” his brother Azad Dar said, adding that the doctors had advised him against walking long distances as his bone in the left leg had been rendered thin by the electric shock. His left leg is covered with bandages.
Like Dar, Irshad Ahmad Dar, 34 has been nursing injuries that he received while repairing a transformer in Shopian village. A resident of Tral, he is posted with Chitragam division of Shopian district, nearly 40 km from his home. He has been working in the department for nine years. He too claimed to have received no compensation, instead the department cut his remuneration for the two days that he was admitted in the hospital, declaring him absent from his duties. He receives a meagre Rs 3600 per month, he said, that too irregularly.
The Union has been on strike from 28th December last year to press for their demands. Even after requests from the department, they hadn’t resumed their duties as on 12th of January. They have been demanding regularisation, salary hike and risk allowances, keeping in view the occupational hazards they have to face while working.
“We are demanding immediate processing of the files that are pending in the divisions and the orders be made public on which DPC has been done on 14th January last year,” said Ab Qayoom Shah, a union member from south Kashmir.
He alleged that they are provided salaries just twice in a year, adding that “no injured has been provided with the risk allowance by the department”.
Calling their strike, “unlawful”, Chief Engineer PDD, Aijaz Ahmad Dar accepted that daily wagers were not paid regularly, adding that “till the point instructions from higher-ups are received we can’t issue regularisation orders as the department had been changed into a corporation”.
He added that the workers are “resorting to illegal means of strike” which amounts to “sabotage of essential services”.
The workers rue that the insensitivity of the department to their ordeal and say that many accidents like that of Irshad’s could have been prevented had they provided a safety gear to him.
Assistant Labour Commissioner, Shopian, Abid Hussain said that the department is violating the minimum wages principle, adding that the department should provide employees with safety equipment to prevent accidents.
“I was repairing the transformer and my colleague had gone to fetch some accessories. In between I don’t know what happened. I regained consciousness in hospital,” Irshad said, adding that the villagers who were present on the spot fled from the spot, leaving him there. He was taken to hospital by some passers-by.
Even with his injuries, he had to resume his work within two days.
The power development department in the valley has been much criticised for its inefficiency, particularly during winters. Being a public face of the department on the ground, workers like Dar, Irshad and Mir face the public ire and often are threatened.
Tahira, a widow of Shakeel Ahmad Dar, has been struggling to meet the needs of her family from the time he was electrocuted on 10th of October in 2015. A resident of Khuram Pora in Shopian district, Dar was a TDL worker with the department for nine years, “drawing pittance”, according to the family.
“We were hoping after he is made permanent, our hardships would end, but that didn’t happen,” she said, adding that she was promised a job that day, but the concerned DC said that had he been a daily wager, then he would have provided us a job.
Tahira has stopped going to what she called “from one office to another office” and has given up even on hopes of compensation.
The police had filed an FIR on 12th of October under section 304 of RPC, that deals with causing death by negligence. However, the accused including the inspector in-charge got bail within three weeks.
“I just want to forget his death,” she said emotionally.
The workers called off their strike on 12th of January after assurance from the department.

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