Shocked at the rising cases of electrocution of elephants in Odisha, the Energy Department has warned that negligence in ensuring safety measures for the jumbos could lead to criminal cases against the top brass of the distribution companies.
The Department had earlier asked the distcoms to prepare estimates for the safety measures but the latter have not paid any heed despite several reminders.
After Friday’s meeting between the Forest and Environment and Energy Departments, the latter means business with the distcoms in view of the increasing pressure to ensure safety of the jumbos which have been facing tragic end.
It has asked the distcoms to improve their performance while issuing an order to prepare separate estimates for the safety measures and submit it at the earliest.
Sources said, the Energy Department has been facing embarrassment since the distcoms are not willing to take up the safety measures in view of the cost implications despite a set of comprehensive guidelines in place for the last two years.
The distribution companies are primarily responsible for maintenance of sagging supply lines and damaged, unprotected towers which are main causes of the electrocution deaths. “Unless the distcoms’ performance in reducing the electrical accidents in the next two to three months is noticeable, the concerned electrical inspectors shall file criminal cases against officials concerned of the distcom, including the Managing Directors and Chief Executive Officer,” a letter issued by the Department said.
The serial electrocution of elephants has brought to the fore how the distribution companies have been flouting the orders of Energy Department in taking the safety measures to prevent accidents for the jumbos in the corridors and non-corridors.
“Necessary information and estimated cost for safety measures required for elephant corridors and non-elephant corridors to avoid electrical accidents has not been received yet,” a letter by the Energy Department to CESU, Nesco, Wesco and Southco said. Last month, the Department had twice asked in vain for information from the distcoms.
Since 2001, Wesco jurisdiction has reported 37 electrocution deaths, whereas Southco has reported 20. Similarly, CESU has recorded 25 elephant electrocution deaths whereas Nesco has reported 34.
In the last 11 years, at least 116 elephants have been electrocuted in the State, a trend which has worried the State and Central governments. Forty-six of the deaths were cases of deliberate electrocutions whereas in 70 incidents, the jumbos were killed by coming in contact with live energy accidentally.
In the last one week, at least six elephants have died, five of them to electrocution. This year, 11 electrocution deaths have been reported in the State. The Department has made it clear that in case of electrocution deaths, the issue of negligence of safety measures will be viewed seriously.