Villagers demand their money back, PDKPL exploring other business

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupcholing

The Pedmi Dejung Kuenphen Private Limited (PDKPL), a company formed with about 4,187 shareholders including villagers of Samdrupcholing community, is now what many say is between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The company had failed to get the contract of hiring heavy earth moving machines (EME) and trucks to the State Mining Corporation Ltd (SMCL) and shareholders, especially villagers are asking back their money. PDKPL couldn’t arrange the EMEs despite the SMCL twice extending the deadline. Having failed to get another extension despite appealing to the Prime Minister, the company is now focused on getting EMEs from the  supplier.

PDKPL has not given up and is planning to hire out the machines if they get from the supplier in the boulder and stone quarry business. PDKPL’s committee member, Mani Kumar, said that while the community wait for the final say on hire machines to SMCL, they are exploring other options like hiring machines to those in the boulder and quarry business.

The company’s chairman, Arjun Chamlagai, said that after their last appeal, the government has indicated to help them find alternatives. 

“We have submitted a proposal to hire machine out any other quarries – sand and boulder extraction – on the suggestion of the government,” he said.

Returning the money, which is not even with the company, officials said would be difficult. “The company wouldn’t be able to return the full amount because we have paid an advance of Nu 20M to procure the machines,” said Mani Kumar, adding that they have not seen any companies returning money once people invested in a company through buying shares. “It would take about two to three years to generate dividend even if we get the work.”

Mani Kumar said the company would give shareholders their money back with interest, but they need at least a year or two to make revenue. “The company wouldn’t allow the shareholders or their children to purchase shares if they want their money back now,” Mani Kumar said.

Meanwhile, shareholders, at least some, are not interested in the company. A shareholder, Pema Chogyel, 42, said he bought shares worth Nu 100,000 thinking that mining was a lucrative business and it would help secure his children’s future. “I was confident the mining work would do well should the company fulfilled the SMCL’s conditions and hired EMEs to the SMCL.”

“I am not interested in boulders or other quarries because I have invested in coal mining. I want my money back. We hope the company will give us our money.”

Another shareholder, who didn’t want to be named, said he was delighted when the SMCL said the community could take part in coal mining and informed about the shares. “We didn’t understand if it was the concerned authority or the company that failed to get the job,” he said. The shareholder took a loan from the banks and invested Nu 500,000 in buying PDKPL shares. “I need my money back because I cannot repay my loan. We are not even sure the community would get the mining work,” he said.

Kezang Phuentsho, 26, said his father invested Nu 70,000 from the little savings from his shop because they were convinced that the investment would help the community and bring economic developments in the four gewogs.

He said that issue has affected others as SMCL has now started coal extraction work at Tshophangma departmentally. “There are about 15 EMEs that are left idle as SMCL took over the job,” he said.

Some are concerned that the company, PDKPL would not be able to raise the Nu 189 million which required to take up the hiring work from SMCL even if they consider the company’s plea. “Nobody would want to buy shares as people doubt if PDKPL would get any work in mining in the future.”

“We bought shares because we were told we are getting into the coal mining business. We wouldn’t have invested if it was for procuring EMEs. The company should inform the people where the money is as it belongs to the people of the four gewogs,” Kezang Phuentsho said.