Over a month after a 55-year-old man died in a transformer blast in Chinchwad, the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) has initiated action in the matter, which has triggered unrest among the workers. The power utility firm has held a helper responsible for the blast and issued a suspension against him, without pulling up a single senior official in the case.
The move has angered workers who have vowed to go on a protest on Monday against this suspension order, which they have called a “ridiculous act.”
“After conducting a probe into the transformer blast, we have taken action against a helper who has been negligent in carrying out the maintenance of the transformer,” said SR Waifalkar, executive engineer, Pimpri division.
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Asked whether it was appropriate to take action against a helper and not senior officials, Waifalkar said, “The helpers hold qualification in electrical trade, we consider him a technical person and therefore, they are hired for maintenance job,” he said.
Though refusing to go into the details of the action, Waifalkar, however, said this was the first action that was taken and further action against other officials will be initiated too.
Defending himself, the helper has told the workers’ union that he had been working for four years with the MSEDCL. He said he had been put on the “recovery” job wherein he has to go to the customers’ doorstep and ask them to pay up the pending bills.
“I have no knowledge of maintenance work. I am supposed to do recovery work which I have been doing for two years,” he told the workers’ union. The helper has refused to take the suspension order.
Angered by the MSEDCL action, the MSEDCL Workers’ Federation in Pimpri-Chinchwad has decided to go on a protest on Monday. “How can you take action against a helper? Is he qualified to work on transformers? They should have first taken action against senior officials who are supposed to take care of the transformers,” said DP Bhujbal, vice president of MSEDCL Workers’ Federation.
Bhujbal said they will protest at Pimpri-Chinchwad level on Monday and then will do so at Pune level if the action against the helper is not withdrawn. Vivek Velenkar of Sajag Nagrik Manch said,” This is too much.
The action against the helper is unwarranted. They should have first taken action against the junior engineer under whom the helper works. The helper merely takes orders from the junior engineer. There are at least 25 parameters that have to be looked into while maintaining the transformers. Only engineers are capable of looking into the paramaters and taking corrective actions,” he said.
Velenkar said there should have been a proper panchama as to whether the oil in the transformer was regularly changed and whether faults in the transformers were set right.
The MSEDCL has taken action after the family of 55-year-old Popat Bansode, who died in the blast, filed an FIR against MSEDCL and its officials for negligence. The family has drawn support from the Aam Aadmi Party that has decided to expose the way the transformers are maintained by the MSEDCL.
Ashok Morwal, a retired junior engineer of MSEDCl and now a civic activist, said the blast highlighted the fact the transformers are not being maintained properly. “When the monsoon starts, the power supply is hit. This shows how the MSEDCL functions.”
The action against the helper, said Morwal, is objectionable and reflects the functioning of the MSEDCL. “There cannot be any justification for action against a helper who is the lowest in the rank. MSEDCL should focus on correcting the system rather than targeting lower-rank employees.”