PII management will facilitate their journey back home

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue 

About 400 workers of the Punatsangchhu-II hydroelectric project (PII) have submitted their names to project authorities expressing their wish to leave for India.

This came after nearly 500 workers of the Jaiprakash Associates Limited (Jaypee Group), a construction company working for PII, came together demanding to go home yesterday. The crowd gathered around 9am in front of the Jaypee Group office in Wangdue.

For the past few months, hundreds of PII workers had expressed their concern and wanted to leave for home. Most workers pointed out that they had stayed in Bhutan for long and now wished to leave. Others reasoned family issues and the upcoming celebration of major festivals in India like the Durga Puja.

The PII management led by chairman Lyonpo Loknath Sharma has ensured to help the  workers leave at the earliest. Lyonpo Loknath Sharma reached Wangdue yesterday afternoon and immediately met with the workers. Lyonpo also visited the campsites to meet with the workers, listening to their concerns and hosted a dinner for the workers yesterday.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the worker’s immediate request was that they be sent home. He added that the workers were of an understanding that the government wasn’t allowing them to leave. “From our side, we can send them any time. 

There are formalities to be completed from the Indian government side as well. That is why I am going to take all the forms and the list and go to the Indian Embassy.”

Lyonpo said that the management would request the Indian embassy to expedite the process. “Not all of them are from West Bengal, some are from other parts—each State has their own route of transit. Bus and trains are not available.”

Many workers of the project usually leave for home after a few months’ stay in Bhutan.

Jaypee Group today has around 2,800 workers. Prior to the lockdown, more than 1,000 workers left for home. Eleven workers who were to leave on August 11 were stranded because of the lockdown.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the workers leaving would disrupt the hydropower construction work. “But human beings are more important for us, their families are more important for us, their sentiments are more important for us.”

Lyonpo also expressed concerns over the worker’s experience in Bhutan and its impact in future.

After over 400 workers left for India last month, the construction companies of PI and PII announced vacancies. The project had plans to recruit Bhutanese workers. PII announced around 268 vacancies.

However, as of mid-July only 17 vacancies were filled.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the project’s plan to recruit Bhutanese had not worked. “We are also thinking about bringing workers from India as replacement. The management and contractors are working on it. If we can bring in around 500 workers we will be okay.”

However, Bhutanese would be given priority.

Critical works at PHPA to begin

Despite the shortage of workers at PII, the project management has plans to begin critical works in PI and PII.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the management had talked with the dzongkhag taskforce with regard to continuation of the critical works.

He added that the management was developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). “We have some specific work such as at the powerhouse, which can be done with a certain number of workers.”

If possible, work at the critical sites will begin today. The workforce would be managed with the available workers at the project.