More than 700 Indian laborers working at ongoing hydropower project sites want to return home.
Currently, there are more than 5,700 laborers working at Nikachhu project, and Punatshangchhu l and ll.
Most of them have already returned with the help of agencies concerned.
Laborers want to return because most of them have personal problems at home and it is time for them to work in their fields.
Managing Director of the DGPC Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said that due to COVID-19 pandemic there is slight impact on the construction sites as laborers want to go home.
“Not to stop the ongoing constructions we are also hiring Bhutanese workers in the hydropower projects,” he said.
He said that the problem is not only shortage of
labor but also of construction materials at project sites due to the lockdown
At Nikachhu, in total there are 1,250
Indian laborers of which around 100 of them want to go back.
Dasho mentioned that the project has offered them incentives of around Nu 3,000 per month requesting them to stay and continue working because of restriction on travel.
“To overcome the labor shortage, the Nikachhu project has deployed around 250 Bhutanese laborers,” said Dasho, adding that they are extremely well. They are working at the dam, power house construction and even in the tunnel sites.
Bhutanese laborers get a basic salary of Nu 15,000 to Nu 17,000 per month.
Dasho said that the project has a system where based on their performance people are incentivized. Nikachhu project is fully owned by DGPC and it is expected to be commissioned by the end of next year.
Joint Managing Director (JMD) of Punatshangchhu Hydroelectric Project Authority ll (PHPA), Thinley Dorji also said that the laborers want to return because some of them have got personal problems at home while for some it is time to work on their fields. “Some of them have been working with the project continuously for six to seven months. Usually, each laborer works for three to four months and goes home when the next batch comes,” he said.
For PHPA ll currently, in total there are 3,529 Indian laborers of which 411 of them want to go home.
The JMD said that around 360 of them have already left so far.
“In addition to providing incentives to the tune of Nu 4,000 per month, sensitization and awareness sessions were also carried out to encourage the workers to remain in Bhutan,” said JMD.
He said that to overcome the labour shortage, vacancy was announced for 268 Bhutanese workers and 156 responded. However, only 17 persons have joined and continue to work with M/s Jaiprakash Associates Limited.
He also said that about 50 Bhutanese were inducted by M/s Bauer, Germany who is the sub-contractor of M/s Jaiprakash Associates Limited.
Depending on the skill set, the workers are paid between Nu 13,700 to Nu 17,000 per month excluding the subsidized food and free accommodation.
He said that an incentive of Nu 4,000 is also being paid in addition to their wages and salaries. JMD said that in the current COVID-19 pandemic, the project was challenged in terms of disruption in supply chain, induction of highly skilled and semi-skilled and unskilled manpower and retention of existing manpower.
“With the interventions from the COVID-19 Task Force of the government of Bhutan and the Indian Embassy, the project has been able to overcome and regularize the supply chain,” said JMD, adding that the project is confident to overcome the manpower issue too in collaboration with all stakeholders.
He said that the project is also ensuring that the critical works of the project do not suffer for want of manpower by re-allocating resources from non-critical to critical areas.
“Processes for induction of manpower from India and abroad with due compliance to the COVID-19’s SOP such as quarantine and testing requirements, and also engagement of Bhutanese manpower are being taken up with the government of Bhutan and India so as to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the project,” said JMD.
Similarly, the Managing Director (MD) of PHPA l, N.C. Bansal said that government of India and Embassy of India in Bhutan are working closely to facilitate the return of Indian workers who want to go home after completing the required formalities to avoid community transmission of COVID-19 both in Bhutan and India by following all the required SOPs of the two countries.
In PHPA l, there are 1,004 Indian workers of which around 190 of them want to return home.
MD said that after completing the required formalities, the project has been able to facilitate around 117 of them as of Friday.
However, he said that as per the experience of other hydro projects, the offer of incentive is not helping to retain the workers who are desperate to return to their hometowns in India because of the compelling circumstances in their family.
PHPA l has offered recruitment to 17 Bhutanese workers, however, only seven of them have joined.
He said that the salary depends on the skills and their past experience. For the unskilled category, Nu 15,000 is paid whereas for skilled category, Nu 18,000 to Nu 21,000 is paid in a month. In addition to that, they are provided free accommodation, insurance and subsidized food.
JMD of Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA), Chencho Tshering said that since the project is on the verge of completion, there are only 240 Indian workers at the project site. He said that MHPA has transferred 91 workers to PHPA l and II.
“In two to three months around 36 workers will be relieved from MHPA and in next three to six months some of them may be transferred to PHPA,” he said adding that tentatively, in six months from now all the Indian workers will be relieved from the project. “By then it will be complete,” said JMD.
He said only the final touches on wood work and landscaping remain to be completed.
Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu