No lifeline for linemen in Nagaland - Eastern Mirror
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No lifeline for linemen in Nagaland

By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: May 09, 2021 10:37 pm
A lineman fixing an overhead power line in Dimapur. (EM Image)

Our Reporter
Dimapur, May 9 (EMN):
Electric utility line workers in Nagaland have to brave the worst of the elements to get the lights on in every home irrespective of the time of day, despite being understaffed and without proper safety gears which results in at least one death or injury every year.

After Nagaland attained statehood in 1963, the state government on July 9, 1964 created a full-fledged Electricity department which was renamed as department of Power Nagaland (DoPN) on Aug. 18, 1981, ‘enlarging the role and activities of the department,’ as per the DoPN website.

However, even after more than 50 years, the linemen of the department are overworked, underpaid and their lives constantly at risk while trying to fix and maintain regular power supply to the citizens.

Less pay, high expectations

Linemen fixing an overhead power line in Dimapur. (EM image)

According to the linemen, they have been appointed as fixed pay work-charged employees for more than 20 years; adding to this woe, they are not paid on time and their dues are paid only twice or thrice in a year.

“It is not like our dues are paid in full amount. If we are not paid for the full six months, when we receive our salary, we are paid only for two or three months,” linemen lamented in unison. ‘Our salary is meagre to manage family,’ they said.

The linemen said their pay is less despite the risk involved compared to other departments.

“Our work is dangerous and no one wants to take up our job. The manpower is less and sometimes we multitask. We become the driver, sweeper and take care of the control room only because the government appointed drivers and sweepers do not turn up for duty. Even though we did not consider taking up this job because of the danger involved, to feed ourselves and family, we take the risk,” a lineman stated.

On the issue of their salary, the linemen told Eastern Mirror that they had raised the issue to the department through the All Nagaland Electricity Field Workers’ Association (ANEFWA) but there was no response.

A lineman in Dimapur, who has been working for about 32 years, told this newspaper that they work in shifts round the clock.

‘We have no holidays and Christmas; festivals just pass by like any other normal working days for us,’ he said.

They said that they are ‘overstressed workers who are always on call of duty’ come rain or shine and their workload increases during the monsoon season.

Linemen fixing an overhead power line in Dimapur. (EM image)

Uninsured workers

According to the linemen, they have just one safety gear — the harness or otherwise the belt. The safety gear provided by the department, ‘is not feasible’, they claimed.

“They hardly provide us with the machinery or equipment to be used while on duty. Although there is allocation for safety gears, we do not receive them,” they claimed.

‘We buy and pay from our own pocket for any equipment. We use our own transportation for duty, paying from our own pocket. Even for the uniform there is a grant but we received only INR 90; we have no complaints as this is nothing new for us,’ they added.

According to them, there is no insurance and benefit for them in case of any unfortunate incident or accident. “In such cases, we look after each other,” they said.

The meter reader or MR, as they are called, is treated similarly by the department, they said. A meter reader said consumers blame them for high electricity bills without realising that ‘they are the consumers’.

“We are always at the receiving end along with the linemen at the hands of the public. While on duty, we are degraded, abused, unappreciated by the public not realising the risk we put in for everyone’s comfort,” the workers lamented.

“It is only because of lack of concern for us that no one is bothered to ensure and secure our safety,” a lineman who wished to remain anonymous lamented. He also said that it will be good if the government could ensure their safety while on the field by procuring safety gears for them.

By Henlly Phom Odyuo Updated: May 09, 2021 10:37:45 pm