Haroon Reshi

Hunted by death, neglected by authorities, PDD workers have nowhere to go

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Children of lesser gods…

On April 17, 2022, A PDD lineman, Mohammad Ashraf Mir, resident of Badipora Nagam Charshrief died due to electric shock in Hafroo area of Chadoora in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.

On April 11, a 32-year-old lineman of Power Development Department (PDD) died after he was electrocuted while repairing a live wire in North Kashmir’s Singhpora Pattan. Two days later, on April 13, in a similar case, a 28-year-old casual labourer with the department died while he was repairing a transmission line in south Kashmir’s Kehribal Anantnag.

Unlike in any other place across India, such incidents occur usually every now and then in J&K, mostly in the Valley. As per media reports, more than 400 casual labourers of Power Development Department (PDD) have died and about 700 have got injured due to the electrocution in J&K since 2010 in J&K. Of these injured, some have been rendered handicapped.

What can be worse than the very fact that there is no compensation scheme available for these causal labours. The official sources say that the department has no provisions available for the rehabilitation of the families of the victims.

Pertinently, around 6,000 casual labours are working with the PDD. These casual workers, who mostly work as linemen with the department, are entitled to receive a meager amount of Rs 225 each as their daily wage. And, since these casual labourers do not come under SRO 43, they are not entitled to any insurance or any financial assistance in case they die or are disabled while doing their duty.

In view of the recent incidents, the chief engineer of Kashmir Power Distribution Corporation, on April 15, issued a circular within the department stressing on “implementation of SOPs and conducting of safety drills” to ensure such incidents are stopped. The circular (copy obtained by ‘Kashmir Images’) reads: It has been observed that there has been a spurt in the occurrence of electrical accidents …. which is a matter of great concern. Safety of the field staff is of utmost importance for which safety officers stand designated in all the divisions, besides safety manual detailing all the SOPs is also in place. However, it seems that same are not being implemented in letter and sprite leading to such undesirable accidents….”

However, the informed sources told ‘Kashmir Images’ that the lack of safety gear and proper training for the linemen, particularly the daily wagers and casual labours is the main cause that leads to the frequent incidents of electrocution of these workers. An official confirmed to this newspaper that only 30 percent workforce has been provided with the safety gear in the Valley.

Sources say that most casual labours – who are at the forefront when it comes to the repairing of damaged wires across the Valley – fall prey to such incidents due to the lack of training and safety gear. They say, the incidents of electrocution of poor workers are unlikely to stop until they are provided with proper training and laced with safety gear.

To grasp more information and details about the issue, KASHMIR IMAGES spoke with some concerned people. Here are the excerpts:

     Waseem Ahmad Jan
General Secretary, J&K Electrical Employees Union

The incidents of electrocution, in which workers die or render disabilities, mostly occur because of two reasons: the lack of safety gear and lack of training to the workers, particularly the casual labourers of the PDD.

By now, the department has provided only 30 to 40 percent of safety tools to the workers – linemen and labourers. But most of them lack the training. Many of them do not know how to use these safety equipments while repairing an electric wire. They don’t know how to use belts while climbing up to the poles. Some of them are even unable to recognize and differentiate between the LT (low-tension) and HT (high-tension) wires.

The Training, Testing, Inspection and Commissioning (TTIC) wing of the department gets crores of rupees annually to create a safe working environment for the staff and labour, but nobody knows where this money is spend. No training workshops are being held in the department. Our department has around six thousand casual workers and all of them are supposed to be trained by the TTIC.

Furthermore, our officers usually do not visit sites where maintenance work is on. As per the rules, the concerned inspectors, assistant engineers, and junior engineers are supposed to be present on the spot wherein repairing and maintenance work is being done. But, mostly these officers pass verbal orders to the linemen and even to the casual workers on the phone while sitting in their homes.

To conclude, I would say that the axe always falls on casual labourers who risk their lives while working on the live wires and climbing the electric poles. Poverty forces these people to take up this life-threatening job. Worst, unlike regular employees of the department, there are no government-backed life insurance schemes for these casual employees. They do not get even a penny from the department when they meet an accident while working resulting into the sufferings of the victim families. We have an ample number of such families in the Valley.

Abdul Rashid Wagay
Victim, Casual labour with PDD

February 27, 2017, was an unfortunate day of my life. In the morning of the day, I got a message that some fault has occurred to the 1100 kV transmission jumper near Jablipora railway station at Bijbihara. I was asked to go and fix the problem. I informed the concerned employees at the grid station and requested them to turn off the electricity till I repair the wire. After I was assured that the electricity was turned off, I climbed the pole through a ladder. I just touched the wire and got a massive electric shock and fall down on the soil.

I found myself on the hospital bed with my right hand amputated. Doctors had cut off my right hand up to the elbow. I remained hospitalized at SKIMS for more than a month and I had to go through three surgeries before I was discharged from the hospital. My wife was pregnant those days. A few months later she gave birth to our son, who is now four-plus of age.

Even though I have been working for the department since 2008, I did not get any compensation from the department. I was told that as a casual employee I was not entitled to any compensation or rehabilitation. My family literally begged for money to ensure I get medical treatment. However, some officers from the department were kind to me. They helped me from their own pockets. They visited me at the hospital and later at my home as well. My in-laws family also provided me with some financial help.


Khurshid Ahmad Bhat
Victim, Casual labour with PDD

I suffered a spinal cord injury on March 13, 2019, when I slipped down from the electric pole at Chandhara in Pompore. I was taken to hospital wherein I was admitted for more than a month. Since then I am bedridden at my home in Khrew area of Pulwama District in South Kashmir.

My family members carry me to the washroom a couple of times every day. The rest of the time I spent lying in bed and cursing that fateful day of my life. I had been working as a casual employee with PDD since 1997. I haven’t got even a penny as compensation from the department that I served for more than two decades. I was told there is no official provision to compensate or rehabilitate the casual employees who meet the accidents on duty. I have two sons and both are unemployed.




    Bashir Ahmad Dar
Secretary (Technical), Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department (JKPDD)

Unfortunately, sometimes employees and workers of our department meet accidents while they are on maintenance duty. It is always painful to see such mishaps occurring. Our department has provided safety gadgets to the field staff to a large extent, and the process of supplying safety kits is continuing. We have set Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the field staff. There are least chances of accidents and loss of lives if these SOPs are followed strictly.

However, we have observed that sometimes linemen and labourers do not use these safety gears while they are on the risky jobs. Even some of them do not use helmets while climbing the electric poles. In some cases, we have observed that the men from the field staff do not follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

As far as training workshops are concerned, the process was halted due to Covid. But now we have restarted organizing training sessions again for the past few months. In recent months, we hold five-six training sessions, wherein linemen and other people from the field staff were given training.

For the past one year, we have got some means to compensate the employees who suffer injuries, and the families of those who die on duty. We have got some life insurance schemes for the employees as well.

Justice (Retd.) Hasnain Masoodi
National Conference (NC) leader, Member of Parliament (MP)

First of all, we must understand that any person who is deployed on fixing the electricity transmission lines and live wires connected with the transformers and grids are doing an extraordinary job.  Even in bad weather, or during heavy snowfall, these men work tirelessly.

Also, we must not forget that we have poor infrastructure in most parts of rural Kashmir. The lack of proper infrastructure makes the job of the field staff of the power department more difficult. A few months ago, In a District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee (DISHA) meeting, I was informed that in some parts of the rural south Kashmir, there is no proper wiring in place, and barbed wire is being used for the power transmission. I raised this issue in the parliament and ensured Union power minister R K Singh releases some 70 crore rupees for the transmission wire to be used in south Kashmir.

In view of this situation, one can imagine how difficult it should be for the workers and linemen of PDD to ensure people get a hassle-free power supply. The government should do everything to ensure that the PDD men working in the field get all facilities.  It is the responsibility of the government to provide all the required equipments and necessary training to the people who are assigned for this hazardous job. It feels sad when people, whether permanent employees of the power department or the casual labourers working with the department die while performing their duties. And, it is more painful to see that some of them do not get any compensation when they met with an accident on their duty just because they are daily wagers or casual labourers.

         Sampat Prakash
Trade unionist; President, J&K State Pensioners Welfare Federation/ Senior Citizens Civil Society

I have been raising the issue of the daily wagers and casual employees of the Power Development Department (PDD) for quite a long time. These workers are always vulnerable to life threatening risks. Only this month two persons lost their lives while trying to repair electric wires. Hundreds of such accidents have occurred in the past wherein hundreds of lives were lost and hundreds rendered handicapped. It is sad that the department has failed to provide safety gadgets and necessary training to people who are working in the field. My heart goes out to the families of these poor people who lose their lives due to the negligence of the top officials of the department. Such causalities are not acceptable in any civilized society.

I would say the officers of the department are playing with the lives of linemen and labours who are asked to fix the electric wires without giving them safety gear and training. These men are being treated as slaves. This is a clear violation of human rights. The top officials of the department should be booked for such deaths. The government is supposed to take all necessary measures to ensure such accidents stop occurring.  I wonder why the employees of the department are silent on these deaths. They must lodge a strong protest and force the department to ensure field staff and the labourers with the department are provided safety kits and necessary training.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *