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Friday, July 20, 2018

Death of a wrestler tells a Ranchi story of callous neglect

On Tuesday afternoon, Vishal Kumar Verma went to check on the JSWA office, which was flooded after heavy rainfall over the last fortnight. He was trying to pump out the water, when he was electrocuted. Vishal was rushed to hospital, where he was declared dead.

Written by Prashant Pandey | Ranchi | Updated: August 11, 2017 10:53:08 am
Jharkahnd wrestler's death, Vishal Kumar verma death, wrestler death, Jharkhand State Wrestling Association, JSWA, Vishal Kumar Verma represented Jharkhand at national meets.

Vishal Kumar Verma, a 22-year-old wrestler, had represented Jharkhand at national meets and won “many golds” at the state level. He was known to be disciplined and reliable, which was why he was often handed the keys to the Jharkhand State Wrestling Association (JSWA) office, housed in a dilapidated building in the Jaipal Singh Stadium in Ranchi.

On Tuesday afternoon, he went to check on the JSWA office, which was flooded after heavy rainfall over the last fortnight. He was trying to pump out the water, when he was electrocuted. Vishal was rushed to hospital, where he was declared dead.

Officials said the building, where the JSWA office is located, had been declared “condemned” and “dangerous”, and the electricity connection was illegal.

“In the process of pumping out the water, Vishal was electrocuted at around 1 pm. He was rushed to Sadar Hospital by fellow wrestlers who live on the first floor of the building. He was declared dead on arrival. The hospital authorities informed us, and we registered a case of unnatural death. We will proceed further after a post-mortem report. Investigations have revealed that the electricity connection to the office was illegal,” said officer-in-charge (Kotwali), Shyam Nandan Mandal.

“We often gave him the keys to the office as he was disciplined and also lived nearby. I had not visited the office for the last 45 days because the condition becomes very bad during monsoon,” said Bhola Nath Singh, honorary secretary of JSWA.

“The entire field has been dug up for a new project and there is no provision for drainage. As a result, the office was flooded. Vishal met me on Tuesday morning… I don’t know what exactly led to the incident. We have contributed Rs 1 lakh to the family and will continue to help them,” he said.

The stadium is being re-done as a multi-purpose cultural centre, Rabindra Bhawan — former President Pranab Mukherjee laid the foundation stone on April 2. The mega complex, estimated to cost over Rs 150 crore, is set to have conference halls, seminar rooms and exhibition areas.

Vishal, the youngest of six siblings, had come fourth at the last national-level event and won many golds at the state level, said Singh. His father works in a garment shop.

“A team has been set up to probe the circumstances leading to the incident. We will give compensation to his family, as per the existing policy,” said Director (Sports), Ranendra Kumar.

While Singh claimed that the office had been provided to the JSWA by the then district sports officer in 1998, Kumar said there was nothing on record to show that it was allotted to JSWA. “The facts are being ascertained,” he said.

“The power connection to the building had been disconnected over two years ago. We were also given to understand that the building had been declared dangerous. We had given a temporary connection to contractors there for carrying out work related to the new project… But the building where the incident occurred has no connection,” said Ravi Shanker, Executive Engineer (New Capital Division), Jharkhand Bijli Vitran Nigam Limited.

Ranchi Municipal Corporation (RMC) spokesperson Naresh Sinha said: “The complex was handed over to the RMC by the Ranchi Regional Development Authority (RRDA) about two years ago, so that we could carry out the new project of Rabindra Bhavan. We were given to understand that the building, where the incident occurred, had already been declared dangerous or condemned before being handed over to us. However, we have constituted a team to investigate the matter and submit a report within seven days. This will ascertain the status of that building.”

Sources in RRDA claimed the building had been declared dangerous a “long time ago”.

Singh, meanwhile, said the JSWA was asked to shift to Birsa Munda Stadium in 2007, but the process got delayed. “In the meantime, we were given a grant by the government to open an office. We opened it in Jaipal Singh stadium, as we were already using that space,” he said, adding that he was not aware of any notice regarding power connection.

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