Thousands of workers who are working on transformer or feeder lines in sub-stations to ensure uninterrupted power supply to residents during the COVID-19 lockdown, not only face danger from high tension power lines, but also from the disease itself. Even though not less than 100-150 Tangedco workers, right from linemen to chief engineers, have succumbed to COVID-19 in Tamil Nadu so far, they are yet to be counted as frontline workers.
In Tamil Nadu, so far only doctors, paramedic, sanitary workers and now journalists are considered as frontline workers. The government provides various support and compensation to frontline workers who have died due to COVID-19 or have been admitted in hospital. But despite 100 to 150 Tangedco workers dying due to the disease, the previous government AIADMK government didn’t consider electricity workers as frontline workers.
“Nothing moves if the power supply is cut. Immediately we rush to any place whether there is sunshine or rain, to repair lines and restore power supply. In hospitals, especially in COVID wards we are working round-the-clock to provide power lest it will create problems for patients. Several of us have been infected with the virus and have died. But, several representations to officials and politicians asking us to be treated as frontline workers have failed. No decision has been taken to treat us as frontline workers,” said a chief engineer who did not wish to be named.
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Those who have died due to COVID-19 include linesmen, DEs, SEs and CEs. “At one stage, even directors in the TNEB headquarters were infected with the virus. Many had to be admitted and some had to be provided oxygen support. Several family members of the workers and employees of TNEB were also infected and some have died,” said the CE.
“Two days back we lost the SE operation at Sriperumpudur. It is really shocking that daily we are losing engineers and other workers due to COVID. The government must reserve a few beds in special hospitals to treat our workers in Chennai, Coimbatore, Trichy and big cities in the state. We must also be included as frontline workers,” said the CE.
As the number of cases are increasing we are in danger of being infected. “There is an acute shortage of beds and people are running from pillar to post to find a bed to admit their relatives. Unless there are some beds reserved for TNEB workers, we will continue to lose our colleagues,” he said.