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August 10, 2019

Rain is blessing, but not for everyone

National

August 10, 2019

Rains are heralded as a blessing from the Almighty and they are considered harbingers of good fortune. The people of Karachi have long had a love-hate relationship with rain. They eagerly await the advent of monsoons and rejoice when the first drops hit the city, making their way to Seaview and other recreational spots in droves, ignoring the long traffic jams and the water-clogged roads.

But there are also those who do not celebrate the rains. Because in a metropolis like Karachi, which is simply not geared for it, rains bring with them a host of challenges such as overflowing sewers, gridlock, road accidents, water contamination, electrical outages, urban flooding and one of the most common, electrocution.

In the recent two-day spell during which Karachi was pelted by continuous rainfall, there were some unfortunate and tragic incidents of electrocution. Men, women and children fell prey to this silent killer in various parts of the city, most of which, happened to be in areas where there was a greater incidence of kundas.

In Clifton, a man lost his life when he touched a live wire which was being used by a street hawker as an illegal kunda from a nearby pole. Reportedly, the kunda wire was removed by the power utility later on. Another needless and avoidable death. The man happened to be homeless. He lived alone, and he died alone, with burial arrangements made by Edhi.

Over the years, we have witnessed a lot of awareness has been created about the dangers of illegal hook connections. And about the fact that people who put up these connections in the hope of saving a few thousand rupees more often than not end up being the catalyst in a very high price being exacted through the death of a near and dear one. Or by someone who was literally an innocent bystander.

Generally, it has been seen that when it comes to safety hazards the power utility responds with more urgency than to general complaints and the first step is to switch off power to the area, followed by steps to eliminate the immediate threat which is often an illegal kunda connection.

But there needs to be more stringent follow-up to ensure that these kundas, once removed, stay off. Illegal electrical connections, along with being a safety hazard are now declared a crime and law enforcement agencies should enforce this. The recent statement by Federal Minister for Power on the floor also acknowledged the presence of kundas where the deaths occurred.

Smallest coffins are the heaviest: The old adage, being in the wrong place at the wrong time is rarely more true than in the case of people paying with their lives for the criminal negligence of others. It is especially painful when children are the victims. A child was electrocuted in Akhtar Colony, another kunda-infested locality. According to local residents and Rangers, the child came in contact with an illegal hook being used in his own house. The connection was taken from a nearby pole.

In another incident where yet again lives of innocents were lost to criminal negligence, two children aged 10-12 years old were playing in the rain when they touched a pole, which had current flowing through it, reportedly because of a broken kunda wire in a locality in Malir. The first child came in contact with the pole, and then his friend tried to help him, and this loyalty and compassion was his undoing.

Had similar compassion and care been practiced by the adults of the area, these two children would not have fallen victim to the crime of power theft, through no fault of their own.

Various stakeholders have been spreading awareness through television, social media, text messages, its mobile app and other media to educate people about the risk of electrocution during the monsoon season since well before the rains started. The public is strongly and repeatedly advised to not touch electricity or street light poles, to stay away from broken or low-hanging wires and to inform the power utility immediately of any safety hazards they may come across.

Most of these deaths were avoidable if only some simple precautions had been taken. Or if criminal elements in the area had not put kundas in the first place. A seemingly innocuous crime which often proves deadly. While the power utility is often seen to be removing kundas from different parts of the city, the city administration and law enforcement also has to play its due role in curbing this crime.