Has MESCOM Messed with Lineman Gerald Veigas' Death?
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
Mangalore, May 29: For Gerald Veigas and his family from Down Thokur Village, Jokatte, Mangalore, Sunday, May 13, 2012 proved to be a catastrophic day. This 38 year old lineman with MESCOM, the sole bread earner of the family of 12 was electrocuted while on duty in Vamanjur, plunging the entire family into shock and grief. With his death an aged mother has lost her son, a young wife her husband and his two little children aged 7 and 5 have become fatherless. Apart from his own immediate family, his dependent siblings and their families have lost a brother who was like a pillar to the entire family.
There are many unanswered questions than answers in the tragic death of Gerald and the needle of suspicion in this ‘accident’ is directed at MESCOM officials who, it is believed are trying to safeguard the officials responsible for the death or rather ‘murder’ of Gerald Veigas. While the family is unable to come to terms with the tragedy and will never be able to get over the blow, the callous and slipshod attitude of MESCOM officials has been like one more shocker to the family. They are wondering why no action has been initiated against Section Officer Gurumurthy who they say violated many rules by forcibly taking Gerald to work in another jurisdiction.
Fight for Truth
Though Gerald died while on duty the response and behavior of MESCOM officials, ranging from total disregard and apathy initially and to that of an eager-to-compromise stance subsequently, has aroused the suspicion of family members and relatives. Instead of visiting the family in their hour of sorrow, MESCOM officials were busy trying to find alibis for the accident. How can one expect a casual statement from MESCOM officials that generator connection in any house might have been responsible for electricity to pass through the high tension wire resulting in his death? The eagerness of MESCOM officials to save their skin and their absurd and contradictory statements safeguard their colleagues has only strengthened the belief Gerald’s family that MESCOM officials have messed up the incident and there is something more than that meets the eye.
The family is now bent upon knowing the truth behind the cause of his accidental death, the officials responsible for it and also wants stringent action against them so that innocent linemen don’t become the sacrificial goats for the ineptitude of officials. There have been threats and even indirect hints that if the family adopts a belligerent attitude and goes ahead in the pursuit of nailing the culprits, there will be obstacles in getting the compensation the family is entitled to. Executive Engineer of Mangalore 1 Division of MESCOM Manjappa even went to the extent of saying why should the family make a big issue when they are getting the compensation. Zeena Veigas, the widow of Gerald retorts: “let Manjappa keep all the compensation and give me back my husband and father to my young children”.
Family members are pinpointing many mistakes on the part of Section Officer Gurumurthy, which should have resulted in his suspension. It is now well known that Gurumurthy had forcibly taken Gerald and another lineman K B Shanthakumar to work on Vamanjoor feeder without permission from Section Officer of Kavoor Lingappa Gowda. Moreover, as an officer he should have ensured Gerald had worn all safety equipment before climbing and ensured proper earthing, which he had not done. Gerald was working in Kavoor division but was taken to work on Vamanjoor feeder which comes under Mangalore Division - 1.
According to reliable sources, power supply in Vamanjoor area was disrupted frequently for 2-3 days before the May 13th tragic incident. Lack of supply must have infuriated some top officials of MESCOM who live in Vamanjoor area and Gurumurthy was asked to pinpoint the fault and ensure power supply so that these top officials of MESCOM in Vamanjoor are able to sleep well. It is a mystery why Gurumurthy did not use his own lineman for correcting the fault instead of taking linemen from another jurisdiction.
There is a Group Operating Switch (GOS) in Mangala Jyoti in Vamanjoor which is the border between Kavoor and Vamanjoor feeder. Linemen from Kavoor feeder had opened GOS and had restored power supply to Kavoor area. They located a trunk line with jumpers in the 11kv high tension wire near Vamanjoor church coming under Vamanjoor feeder. It is now believed that Gerald climbed the pole and located the fault. He was then busy giving jumpers which he had removed once the fault was corrected. When he was giving the third jumper power passed through the 11kv high tension wire and within no time Gerald was hanging on the wires fighting between life and death.
Reliable sources say that the Section Officer concerned must have gone to GOS even when Gerald was working and told Shanthakumar, the other lineman, to close the GOS which was kept open without ensuring Gerald had climbed down from the pole. This was the biggest gaffe resulting in the ‘accident’, which might have been unintentional, but nevertheless caused by sheer negligence. Naturally, the line did not stay and by then those involved must have realized the blunder and ran away from the scene. That is why there was no one when Gerald’s body was found hanging on the wires. It is said there is always a small chance of linemen being alive and in such cases the person should be brought down and given first aid immediately. But Gerald’s body could be brought down only after 45 minutes only after the arrival of fire service and he was dead.
The story of current shock due to generator is also phoophooed by many who say that generator shock would not have caused an injury of such a magnitude. It is said that there is no question of generating current in high tension and in case of shock by generator the lineman would have fallen down and his body would have been charred to the extent which Gerald’s body had charred. His right side was completely charred and only a thin bone remained of his right hand.
Vacuum in Dream Home
The innocent faces of late Gerald’d sons Jeston (7 years) and Jameson (5 years) may not actually reveal the turmoil these children might be going through, having seen the charred body of their father. Gerald did not have a home of his own and lived at his brother’s in-laws house at 62 Thokuru Village in Jokatte, Mangalore. Geral’ds aged mother is in shock having lost her young son and Zeena, Gerald’s widow is unable to think the difficult days ahead and the task on her hands of bringing up her children all alone. Whatever may be the amount of compensation money cannot bring the dead person back or fill the vacuum caused by a person’s death. Manjappa should have known it better before uttering such ludicrous statements, which does not go well with his position.
Controlling her tears Zeena says “now my main motto is to get justice and I will fight for it so that those responsible for the tragedy are brought to book and punished. I have lost my husband and I don’t want other innocent people to face a situation like me”. Darvin Lobo, Gerlald’s cousin has now made it a mission to provide justice to the family. “Gerald was born and brought up in our house at Ranipura and I have seen how much he has struggled all these years. He has been like a pillar of strength to the whole family. I will not rest until justice is ours”, Darvin says.
The family is now in tatters. The under-construction house of Gerald just at a stone’s throw away from their present home stand as a mute spectator to the cruel blow destiny has rendered on the family. Zeena says with tearful eyes “Gerald always wanted to have a house of our own, even though it was a small one. He had worked hard overseeing the work of this small house. He had opted for night shift so that he could supervise the work. But he is gone before we could stay in the house”. Family members say that Gerald wanted to have the house warming on May 22, 2012, but he passed away before fulfilling his dream. It is a very simple house with cement sheets for roofing. On May 22, the family hurriedly completed the flooring and held a house warming (only blessing by priest) to fulfill the dream of late Gerald. But his absence will always be felt by his family.
Darvin and other relatives of Gerald have knocked at every door of MESCOM officials in their pursuit for justice. Even the neighbours of Gerald have given their full support to the family in their fight for justice. Says Irene D Souza, a neighbour “we will support Gerald’s family because MESCOM people should not think they can get away playing with the lives of poor and innocent people like Gerald and others”.
So far the response of MESCOM officials has been very lackadaisical. A senior official like Executive Engineer Manjppa has put his foot in the mouth more than once. He gave a totally irresponsible and wrong statement during a media interaction just to buttress and safeguard Gurumurthy that lineman of a particular section can work in any other section, which sources say, is totally incorrect. The family members are now waiting for the report of Dy Electrical Inspectorate (DEI), who is the final authority to decide on the cause of the accident. It is said that there have been efforts to bribe this DEI by MESCOM officials to get a favourable report because Gurumurthy happens to be an office bearer of one of the unions of MESCOM employees.
The family members once again want to meet the Managing Director of MESCOM Vijaya Narasimha, who had a good name as a forthright man when he was in the Mysore Division. One expects Vijaya Narasimha to act impartially in this incident and ensure that the truth comes out and Gerald’s family is given justice.