41 people lost lives building Punatsangchu projects

Bereaved families compensated well

Safety: Search is still on for the body of a 37-year old expatriate worker who lost his balance and drowned in the Punatsangchu on July 28 while he was working at the dam complex of Punatsangchu Hydro Power Project Authority II (PHPA II).

The worker was an employee of Jai Prakash Associates, an Indian construction company working with PHPA II. The 37-year old labour was from Bihar, India and has two school going children.

A JP official said his family would be compensated with an insurance of Nu 108,000 from the Royal Insurance Corporation of Bhutan (RICBL), and Nu 1M from an Indian insurance company.

JP officials claimed that excluding this recent death, there were six deaths reported as underground (tunnel) fatality while another six workers were reported to have died outside. Deaths occurred underground and outside are insured differently.

For any underground fatality, the insurance claim is Nu 1.5M from the Indian insurance company and Nu 125,000 from RICBL. If a death has occurred outside, the claim is Nu 1M from the Indian company and Nu 108,000 from RICBL, said JP sources.

“JP  also provides the deceased family with Nu 20,000 to complete the funeral rites,” an official said.

Since the main works began at the two PHPA constructions,  about 41 deaths were reported at the sites, 16 at PHPA I since 2009, and 25 at PHPA II since 2011. All workers are hired only if they were willing to work in the hazardous working condition, and after signing an undertaking letter, official sources said.

Today, there are about 10,000 workers at the project sites.

Besides occupational deaths, several deaths were also reported due to speed driving, illness and motor vehicle accidents, police said.

However, labour officials with the project said that labour safety has been strictly monitored and given priority. “We have labour inspectors and labour safety officials deputed at various construction sites to regularly monitor exercises on safety,” a labour official said.

Officials claim they don’t come across safety issues in major construction companies because they have professional safety officials regulating who exercise safety measures at work site. Each company has a group of safety officials.

Labour officials also said that if an expatriate dies at work, the relatives have to come until Phuentsholing consulate office, where the project labour officials help the relatives in claiming the death insurances.

Project officials said this year, PHPA I construction site reported one death in January. “We have been strictly monitoring the safety measures and deaths have drastically deceased,” a project official said.

Both PHPA I and II have about four safety inspectors and two labour officials each.

Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue

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