At around noon on Monday, 32-year-old Sukki was on her way to carry wood to earn her day’s wages along with her pet dog.
“My wife really loves our dog and keeps him with her all the time. She took him when she went to carry wood because she wanted his company,” said 38-year-old Zoramthanga, Sukki’s husband.
In an unfortunate turn of events, however, their dog, who they lovingly called ‘Thawkcha’, came in touch with a loose wire from an electric post and was electrocuted.
Unable to see him suffer, Sukki quickly rushed to her dogs side and tried to rescue him. Unfortunately, she was also electrocuted.
Seven-months-pregnant Sukki and her one-year-old pet died on the spot. According to eyewitnesses, the 32-year-old’s body, as well as her clothes, were burnt and Thawkcha also showed burn marks on parts of his body.
“My wife doted on our dog even at home. On seeing him electrocuted, I think her heart could not bear it and she rushed to help him without thinking of her own life,” Zoramthanga told EastMojo.
Sukki and Zoramthanga have been married for 18 years and lived in Chikhurlui village in Lawngtlai District of Mizoram.
The remote village in Southern Mizoram is home to around 118 families. According to Zoramthanga, Sukki was known to be a lively young woman who loved her family dearly and enjoyed keeping the company of friends. They have four children together and their fifth child was expected in May.
The incident not only brought immense grief to the family but has also raised concern for their future.
“When my wife was alive, both of us looked for work everyday to earn some daily wages and feed our family. We could hardly feed our family then. But without her I don’t know how I am going to look after my children. Losing her hurts even more when I look at my children. I don’t know how we are going to survive. I cannot talk about her anymore, thinking of her brings me close to tears,” Zoramthanga told EastMojo.
The couple’s eldest child is 12 years old, while their youngest is only one. A photo of Sukki and their pet Thawkcha was not available as the family is not in possession of a phone. As fate would have it, their stiff bodies lying electrocuted on the ground, clicked by the public, was the first photo they had together.
Chhuanawma, the Secretary of the Young Lai Association, which is the apex NGO of Lawngtlai district, told EastMojo that this was a case of negligence of the power department that led to the loss of lives.
“The wire was hanging loose and was clearly visible as it was just near the roadside. So this is clearly a case of negligence. The electricity department should realize that they are being paid to work and do their work more carefully,” said Chhuanawma.
We hope that Sukki’s death will be a wake-up call for the department, he added.
“The current line remains unchecked for long periods if the electricity is regular. We don’t want such an incident taking place in any other village and want to appeal to the concerned department to practise caution and be more vigilant,” he said.
According to the power department, however, the tragedy was more because of the slash and burn cultivation started by farmers across Mizoram around March 15.
“Around March 15, slash and burn cultivation was started out in different parts of Mizoram, including Lawngtlai district. During such a process, sometimes the farmers do not pay heed to the Electric lines and since the wires are made of aluminium conductors, they melt/expand due to excess heat,” Laldawngliana, Senior Executive Engineer of the Lawngtlai Power Division told EastMojo.
Even in this case, the official said, the burning fields affected one of the jumpering portion of one phase conductor wire, out of three wires. “This particular expanded conductor wire touched the MS channel, which directly connects to the main electric poles, causing leakage of electric current through which they were accidentally electrocuted,” Laldawngliana said.
As per the government of Mizoram’s guidelines, the legal heir of the deceased in case of victims of electrical accidents are eligible for ex-gratia of Rs 10,00,000.
But, as per the conditions for ex-gratia payments in relation to loss of human life, a post-mortem report with death certificate issued by concerned medical authorities and a police report is a requirement. And, the accident category would be decided is per spot verification carried out by the electrical inspectorate.
In a further turn of unfortunate events, Sukki’s family, oblivious to the availability of such provisions and the requirements needed for such, cremated her body without conducting a post-mortem examination.
“Their family is very poor. Sukki, even though she was seven months pregnant, did not stay at home but went to do hard labor, because her family was in need of it. Her husband Zoramthanga had traveled to a nearby village to earn some money, and it was just one day since he returned home when she died. As an NGO we will try our best to support them,” Chhuanawma said.
A senior government official, on the condition of anonymity, said they are considering a special exception in Sukki’s case for ex-gratia.
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