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In dark times, his energy lights up lives

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NEW DELHI: No one stops Bablu Mandal from going out of his Kabir Basti house in north Delhi’s Malkaganj. Even the policemen don’t harass the 39-year-old. And this is just as it should be, for Mandal is someone who helps light up these dark days of isolation.

Mandal is a lineman working with Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited and goes out daily to see that a breakdown in electricity supply does not add to the already depressive situation. Imagine being cooped up in unlit houses without the fans or refrigerator running and not even the television on to lessen the boredom! “Our responsibilities are part of the fight against the coronavirus,” he says. “We go out and do our duty so that people can stay safe indoors.”

Depending on his shift, he works daily from 8am to 2pm, 2pm to 10pm or 10pm to 8am? Doesn’t it scare him to leave the house and venture out where the novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc? “There is no point in getting worried. One only has to be careful,” Mandal says with admirable assurance.

“We try and not think too much about this new disease. We know that there are a lot of systems and devices depending on us for operation.”

Given the risks involved, the discom has given linemen, who earn Rs18,000-20,000 a month, masks, gloves, hand sanitisers, even paper soap strips. Mandal knows he has to be careful.

“When we are in the field, we consciously keep 1-2 metres from the residents. People are mostly aware about this need. If they aren’t, we explain it to them,” says the lineman. “Another thing that has changed is that we carry our own water bottles. Earlier, people used to offer us water. Now we thank them from a distance.”

Like Mandal, Abhendra Yadav, a lineman with another discom, BSES, too attends to complaints throughout the day. “After duty, I come home and immediately get both myself and my clothes washed before I go in and meet my wife and 18-month-old son,” says Yadav, who lives in east Delhi’s Ganga Vihar.

Unlike Yadav, however, Mandal comes home to roommates and friends because he has left his parents, wife, two sons and a daughter behind in Bihar. “They live in Bargaon village in Saharsa district. I stay here with a couple of fellow linemen and helpers,” says Mandal.

Mandal came to Delhi from his village in 2001. “I knew a bit of work then, but got the training and passed an exam. After that, I was hired and have since been working with Tata Power. I am a lineman now, but I started as a helper, an assistant lineman,” he narrates.

Separated from family, facing the risk of catching the bug every time he steps out of his house, Mandal’s only comfort is his regular video calls to his family. “They are very tense. But they are there, I am here,” the line worker continues. “I tell them we go out because we are part of essential services. What we do daily for people is very important. Without us, the system fails. But they should follow the rules and stay at home.”

Source – TOI

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