States must promptly act to avoid deaths by illegal electric fences

State governments must act proactively to stop the loss of lives in such a callous manner.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

Unauthorised electric fences put up to prevent animal incursions into farmlands are taking lives all over the country. Reports of such deaths—of both humans and animals—have increased in recent times. The highest number of such deaths has been reported in Kerala, where 37 human lives have been lost in the past four years; of these, 16 deaths happened last year alone. Similar cases have been reported from other states as well.

Recently, two men in their twenties from Veliagaram village near the Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border were electrocuted at an illegal fence near a bus stop. Such fences have claimed 13 lives in Maharashtra in the last two years. Karnataka and Telangana, too, have reported similar incidents and the state governments there have asked citizens to be more careful with fencing in general.

The saddest thing is that all these deaths could have been avoided if the people putting up the fences had gone by the legal and scientific method for erecting them. Across states, the rule requires prior government sanction for electric fencing and the equipment should conform to ISI standards. It is the responsibility of the owner to ensure that the voltage supply is not lethal. The rule stipulates that electric fences bordering public spaces should display clear warning signage. It is also mandatory at some places to set up an additional physical barrier for fences installed for security purposes.

But as the increasing number of deaths shows, these rules are rarely followed. Installing an unauthorised electric fence is legally punishable—in case of an accidental death, the offender can be charged under IPC Section 304. The maximum punishment is of 10 years’ jail as well as a fine. However, the conviction rate in such cases is very low and even conviction leads to relatively light punishment.

State governments must act proactively to stop the loss of lives in such a callous manner. They should consider a two-pronged strategy: there must be an awareness drive involving multiple arms of the government, and stricter measures must be initiated to punish the culprits. All life—of humans as well as animals—is precious. Any negligence that cuts it short must not be tolerated.

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