My dying phone and the lineman

Pete Yiese

Seikhazou D Khel, Kohima

There are occupation related hazards in many line of work but none as high as in Power Department. Most of our linemen work on an unsustainable fix pay salary as low as Rs. 3400 per month, working 7 days a week, 30 days a month round the clock, with no shift change unlike other essential departments, in all weather and terrain; especially busier during the storms and festive season.

While we take shelter during the rains and floods that is the time they step out to carry out their duty. When all offices go on vacation during the Christmas and New Year that is the time they remain busiest. They spend their Christmas and New Year eves checking lines and preparing for any eventuality so that we the consumers can light up our pretty lights and trees. While we make merry and spend time with our loved ones, that is the time when their loved ones see them the least, most of them don’t get time to even have a proper meal or get a good night’s rest. Being woken up early in the morning or late in the night by irate consumers to have them come and rectify their wiring issues/line faults is the normal routine in their lives.

Today I heard many people wondering why there was no power (in Kohima) and many enquired when it would be restored. I too waited eagerly because my phone battery was draining rapidly.

Then news came that one of the linemen met with an accident while trying to repair/restore some lines. I am guilt ridden because while I was complaining about my dying phone someone was actually dying trying to save my dead battery.

His condition is said to be critical (admitted to the ICU) and may not survive the accident. This is not something new for the department. They’ve lost countless hardworking individuals over the years through accidents and mishaps.

Today, I want us to ponder over our own reactions and attitudes toward these selfless, hardworking individuals. They are the reason we enjoy our heaters in the cold winters or our AirCons in the sweltering summer nights, our phones and laptops stay charged for us to enjoy our games and movies.
I wish we could cultivate a little more compassion for these people, learn to be a little more grateful for their contribution, maybe even put our feet in their shoes and be a little kinder to them.

Working as a lineman in the power department is itself the greatest test of character and patience. Many people have come and gone unable to pass that test, and those who have remained are really the strongest bunch. True, there are rogues in every basket but I urge you not to judge everyone the same just because of the misfortune you have had of having met one who didn’t please you. Next time you see one of them working in the dead of the night or under the hot noon sun, a cup of tea or a glass of cold water could be the greatest thank you they could receive from you.

There are some departments in Nagaland with a humungous personnel size under their payroll, triple/quadruple the size of Power Department. But aside from a bitter comment here and there, the public doesn’t act out as aggressively towards their non-performance as they do when there is power failure, or when the colony linesman is unable to resolve a crisis on time. We often hear of linemen being physically manhandled but do we ever hear of drain cleaners being bashed up for clogged drains?

Understaffing is one of the biggest reasons affecting the quality of service in the state and the hardships faced by the overworked staff. This is a matter which needs to be taken up in earnest by the government if it is serious about improving the quality of power to its people. But until such time that the government decides to increase the workforce of this very vital department, maybe we need to show some kindness to these people who literally put their life on the line of fire everyday.