Complaints fall on deaf ears, KSEB's apathy leaves a teen electrocuted in Kozhikode

Youth electrocuted
Mohammed Rijas Puthalath (19), The iron pole which caused the tragedy. Photo: Special Arrangement.

Kozhikode: Mohammed Rijas Puthiyottil (19) from Anakkuzhikkara, Kuttikkattur, was a smart student who wanted to pursue a course in Artificial Intelligence (AI) from Bengaluru after Plus Two. But the apathy of a bunch of Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) officials left him electrocuted the night before he could take his bus to the Karnataka capital.

He was electrocuted from a pole in front of a shop on AWH-Kuttikkattoor road. Shop owners and many others had complained to the KSEB about the electrical shock. But the officials concerned did nothing but escalate the 'issue' to the head office.

A dream lay shattered
Before the AI course began, Rijas took up a part-time job at a hotel run by his cousin at Kinassery during the vacation. He wanted the money to meet his expenses during his study in Bengaluru. May 19 was his last day in the hotel. He was planning to travel to Bengaluru the next day.

Finishing his duty, he left the hotel by midnight. On the way home, his two-wheeler developed some mechanical snag. As he could not restart it, he called his elder brother Mohammed Rafi. Since it was getting late, both siblings decided to park the scooter in front of a nearby shop. While trying to park the vehicle, Rijas touched the iron pole.

What Rafi heard next was a loud painful cry from Rijas who was holding on to the pole. Even though panicked, Rafi gained enough courage to pull his sibling away from the pole. They both fell to the ground. While Rijas was unconscious, Rafi managed to get up and give CPR to him. He was screaming for help. Though two cars went past them, they ignored Rafi's request. When a third car came, Rafi jumped in front of it, stopped it and managed to take his younger brother to the Government Medical College hospital. But doctors declared Rijas dead.

“Nobody can measure the depth of our loss,” said Rijas' cousin Shamsudheen Puthiyottil. “Rijas was a smart boy, very good in his studies. He was a loving person and always had a smile on his face. He was fascinated by technology and wanted to do a course with AI as a main subject,” Shamsudheen said.

Passing the buck
Electricity was passing through the iron pole which caused the tragedy. Rijas was not the first person who suffered electric shock from it. At least five people had complained of shocks in the past few days. The owner of the building had also informed KSEB about it.

Podhath Mohammed, the building owner, started calling the KSEB office on May 17. He got a response only the next day. Those running commercial establishments from the building also called the authorities to register complaints about the leakage.
Following their concerted effort, a KSEB officer came to the site on May 19. He inspected it and escalated the issue to the head office. When the building owner and businessmen again alerted the official that the issue had not been resolved, he claimed his helplessness as the problem was related to the service wire. He told them that he had filed a complaint in the head office. “My friend Habeeb also got an electric shock from the same pole on the same night of the tragedy and called the KSEB office to complain,” said Shamsudheen.

“The negligence of the KSEB resulted in a youth losing his life. When we contacted them, they told us that they were busy with fixing rain-related issues. Was that bigger than this?” Shamsudheen said angrily.

“When we reached the spot, the building owner was sad about the incident and said many people had suffered electric shock from the pole. So we again approached the police and alerted them. Till now no one from the KSEB or the government has met us. We heard that authorities have announced Rs 5 lakh compensation,” Shamsudheen said.

Action committee seeks justice
An action committee formed to seek justice for the deceased teenager, said KSEB was trying to overlook the death. The police have registered a case under section IPC 174 for unnatural death. The state government announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh. But the action committee has demanded to register the case for murder, compensation of Rs 1 crore considering the age of the boy, an impartial inquiry and a government job for one of the family members. “The panel will hold a march to the Vaidyuthi Bhavan in Gandhi Road on May 30,” said action committee chairman Dinesh Perumanna.
“The police have slapped not so serious charge. Rijas' brother Rafi needs follow-up treatment, as he was also injured in the accident,” Dinesh says. Despite the allegation that police were trying to water down charges against KSEB, a police official told Ommanorama that it may be changed after further investigation.

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