Negligence Kills Kids in Bengaluru, But Authorities Go Scot Free
It’s been over a week since the death of a 7-year-old due to electrocution. We speak to other victims of negligence.
It has been over a week since 7-year-old Uday Kumar was electrocuted on 24 February, by a stray live wire in a park close to his home in Kamannahalli, north Bengaluru.
While Bengaluru mayor announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the family on behalf of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), his family, presently preoccupied with rituals surrounding his last rites, is yet to see a rupee of the money. Uday’s elder brother, Abhilash was also hurt in the incident, but is more traumatised by his brother’s death.
“The parents are poor, the father is a daily wager and the mother works as a domestic help. That is why we are helping them. Since all the agencies were passing the buck, we filed an FIR against officials of BBMP, Bangalore Development Authority and Bescom, the electricity providers. Till now, cops have not taken any action, they have only served notices to the agencies not naming anybody.”Govindraju, a neighbour to Uday’s family
This is not the only case. In May 2018, 15-year-old Mohammed Mubashir Sheriff was electrocuted by a dangling live wire and was in coma for two months. In 2017, a 16-year-old boy Cavin was electrocuted in his own balcony, burnt from a dangling high tension wire and had to have both his arms amputated. But their lives will never be the same.
Mohammed is presently undergoing speech and physical therapy to get back to normal. Two years later, Cavin, a lover of sports is mostly homebound. He is appearing for his Class 12 examinations with the help of a scribe.
Dangerous Accidents & Forgotten Promises
For the last ten months, 42-year-old Suban Sheriff had to take his son Mohammed for treatment to a hospital 20 kilometres away, every day. Despite expensive and extensive physical, mental and speech therapy, he has still not made a full recovery.
He was struck by a wire dangling from a pole, as he parked his cycle next to a pole, before attending his tuition class. Sheriff said that while the FIR was registered against Bescom, officials said it was BBMP’s fault. He said they were paid an amount of Rs 1 lakh and told to treat it as a settlement and to leave the case be, but Sheriff did not agree. Two months later, they received Rs 5 lakh for reimbursing medical expenses but this was done after appealing to a local politician to take up the case.
The case to hold the correct agency responsible and get them to dole out the compensation is still an uphill battle.
“He is still not able to write properly or even hold a pen steady. His speech is also affected, he keeps repeating the same word and can’t talk properly. The incident happened 10 days before he was set to enter Class 10, and now his whole future is ruined. We spend Rs 2,000 every day while my daily earnings only come up to a few hundred rupees.”Suban Sheriff to The Quint
Once a Footballer, Now Cavin Spends Most of His Time at Home
Cavin had just joined pre-university college (PUC) or Class 11, when the tragedy occurred. He had to have his entire left arm and part of his right arm amputated due to severe burns. His mother, Vidya, said that she has not received a rupee in compensation so far. They have spent about Rs 25 lakhs till now in medical expenses.
“We have gotten no compensation from the Bescom or the BBMP,’’ says Cavin’s mother Vidya.
“Cost of procuring a robotic arm is expensive. Currently, we are being quoted a price of Rs 2,75,000 for the right hand, which was amputated below the elbow and Rs 4,50,000 for the left arm, which was fully amputated. We had filed a case against Bescom and they tried to shrug off the blame by saying it was Cavin’s fault, that he was wearing earphones and got himself electrocuted. You tell me, why will anyone go to touch a high-tension wire?” she asks.
Vidya said that immediately after the accident, the local corporator made a big show of assuring them that BBMP will take care of the medical bills but when she approached him later, he feigned confusion.
“Along with Bescom officials, the corporator came and gave us a cheque of Rs 1 lakh as a token amount before the whole amount could be disbursed. He said it had been collected internally by concerned officials. I knew it was an eyewash and never deposited the cheque. When I approached him later, he cited the cheque given earlier and asked why BBMP should give more money,” she said.
Still Fighting Battles
Mathew Thomas, coordinator at South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM) is presently handling over 10-15 cases against negligent civic agencies, including Cavin and Mohammed’s. He said in most cases, the matter does not go beyond an FIR and a charge sheet is never filed.
“In the case of Mohammed, the matter is with the state child rights commission. The BBMP has denied responsibility and said that the fault lay with a contracting agency, and said that the wording of the contract clearly places the responsibility of any accident on them. Requests to submit these contracts have fallen on deaf ears while the family suffers. In Cavin’s case, Bescom has taken the matter to court claiming that they have no responsibility to pay. Last week, the court disposed off the case. We are still trying to fathom why,” said Thomas.
Cases are normally filed under sections 336, 338 and 304A of the IPC; these pertain to endangering the life of personal safety of another, grievous fault by act endangering the life or personal safety of others and negligence. These clauses also attract a jail term for those found guilty, apart from other measures like compensation.
Thomas says there are several common factors in cases of negligent civic agencies. “There will be no intervention from the government, or department. Victims are all minors and the families are not well-off which makes the family struggle to pay bills apart from coping with the trauma,” he said.
“When we went to BBMP officials, they said they have no compensation mechanism. If there is an application it can be taken up. There was a recent case in Himachal Pradesh where a child was badly burnt and the high court ordered payment of Rs 1.25 crore. The agencies who had been ordered to pay took the matter to the Supreme Court who upheld the verdict and ruled that Rs 90 lakh should be paid. The SC order is the law of the land, we used this to fight cases in Karnataka, but justice is delayed.Mathew Thomas of SICHREM
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