Aluminium ladders claim 31 lives in 5 years in Kodagu

Aluminium ladders claim 31 lives in 5 years in Kodagu

March 18, 2021

Electrocution occurs when ladders come in contact with live wires

Kushalnagar: Thirty-one persons have lost their lives in Kodagu since the last five years while using aluminium ladders to either harvest pepper from vines that grow on trees up to great heights or while pruning tree branches after the coffee picking season. The deaths occur when the aluminium ladders come in contact live power lines amidst estates. 

The latest victim is 62-year-old Sebastian Lobo, an estate worker, who was electrocuted on Mar. 15 at Arji village near Virajpet. He died as a live 11 KV electricity wire came in contact with the aluminium ladder while harvesting pepper in the coffee estate owned by St. Anne’s Church in Virajpet. 

According to the data obtained from the Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Company (CESC), a majority of deaths have occurred in Virajpet Taluk and of the 31 victims, more than 20 are from this Taluk. In 2016-2017, six persons were killed, in 2017-2018, there were seven deaths and in 2018-2019 nine deaths were reported. In 2019-2020, seven people were killed and in 2020-2021 till Mar. 15, two persons including Sebastian Lobo have lost their lives. 

These deaths have occurred despite awareness drives carried out by the District Administration and CESC. Devaiah, Assistant Executive Engineer CESC Madikeri told Star of Mysore that they were creating awareness programmes since a couple of years and have urged growers not to use aluminium ladders. “We will meet Kodagu Deputy Commissioner Charulata Somal soon and would discuss the ways and means to prevent deaths or injuries,” he added. 

Deceased Sebastian Lobo

Unabated deaths

Coffee growers in the district have opted for aluminium ladders to harvest pepper from vines that have grown on tall Silver Oak trees as bamboo ladders are hardly available and moreover the Forest Department books cases against people who cut wild bamboo from the jungles. Before 2015, bamboo ladders were majorly used and ever since the switch to aluminium ladders happened, deaths too increased. 

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In 2019, on Apr. 1, three estate workers were electrocuted when they came in contact with a live 66 KV power transmission line at Aruvathokkalu near Gonikoppal in Virajpet Taluk. When compared to bamboo ladders, aluminium ones are more durable and is a one-time investment for years together. Bamboo ladders wear out soon due to rain and moisture and every year new bamboo ladders have to be cut and shaped.

Bamboo shortage

In the wake of blight and rotting disease affecting bamboo in Kodagu, bamboo is a prized commodity now and the Forest Department has imposed many restrictions on cutting bamboo from the wild. 

CESC data has revealed that a majority of the accidents have occurred near the 11 KV lines that connect to the borewells sunk inside the plantations. Also, most of the people who have died in accidents are from outside Kodagu, who come to the district for seasonal work as they would not be aware of the power lines criss-crossing their path. These ladders are usually carried straight from one pepper vine tree to other and this is the main reason for electrocution, said CESC engineers. 

M. Sadashiva Bhat from Puttur who deals with fibre ladders and insulated ladders told SOM that fibre light-weight ladders are quite expensive and would cost over Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 7,000. Insulated ladders too are available and they will cost Rs. 2,500 to Rs. 3,000. 

Demand for subsidy

“We cannot afford to buy these ladders due to the cost factor. In fact, if the Government provides a 50 percent subsidy to buy fibre ladders, it would decrease our burden,” a coffee planter said.

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In fact, under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (Remunerative Approach for Agriculture and Allied Sector Rejuvenation), the Department of Horticulture provides subsidy for farmers to purchase machineries including aluminium ladders. Senior Assistant Directors of the Department of each taluk are authorised to release the subsidy. But there is an absolute lack of awareness of such schemes. 

2020-2021 till Mar. 152

ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Aluminium ladders claim 31 lives in 5 years in Kodagu”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Subsidy? Oh yes there is subsidy just in papers.
    When a farmer approches the department they say there is no fund available for subsidy or they say the allotment of subsidy is over for the current year and if you buy ladder this year you will not get subsidy.
    Many farmers in Kodagu have spices( pepper, cardamom etc) as primary crop and there’s only one spices board office where a farmer can approach for subsidy, technical information etc and that too there’s only one appointed staff for the entire district which receives a sum of 3lakh as subsidy grant.


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