200 households have lingered for more than three years since work began to get connected

Electrification: Layaps (people of Laya) might have lived their entire life without electricity, but their patience is running out, with the contractor delaying work to connect the remote village with electricity.

It has been more than three years since work to connect the 200 households to the electricity grid started.  But despite extensions, the contractor, Chogyal Construction, which took up the work for Nu 13.6M (million) and agreed to complete it in 12 months, failed, leaving Layaps frustrated.  The contractor was also given an additional three months, considering the extreme weather conditions, said the deputy manager of rural electrification and construction sub-division, Jigme Sherub.

Laya gup Kinley Dorji said, when the electrification work started in 2012, Layaps were so excited and worked hard to transport the materials from Gasa to Laya.  Most equipment was transported on horses, for which they were paid Nu 400 per day per horse, and others through helicopters.

However, when the contractor failed to pay the workers and the porters, people refused to work.  They tried to negotiate with the contractor, but he repeatedly failed to pay, following which people stopped working.  He still owes about Nu 400,000 to Layaps in wages.

The contractor then resorted to hiring people from Trashigang, Radhi and Merak, who also worked for several months and left after the contractor failed to pay for months.  They even filed a case against the contractor.

Layaps said, in the hope of getting electricity, many have already purchased equipment to light their house.  Laya gup, Kinley Dorji said, while transmission lines have reached most villages, transmission lines are missing at various locations.

“We raised the issue in the dzongkhag tshogdus and also approached the rural electrification head office in Thimphu and sub-division in Punakha, however, no actions were taken on the contractor,” he said. “As per the contract agreement, there are penalties for the delay, however, we wonder if such penalties were even levied on the contractor.”

Personal requests to speed up the work were also made to the contractor.

The issue was also sounded off to their representatives, home minister Damcho Dorji and National Council representative from Gasa, Sangay Khandu.  Layaps feel they are running out of time, as spring is the best time to work. “The weather is most favourable now, but we hardly see any workers,” said the gup.

Deputy manager Jigme Sherub admitted to the delay and said only about 70 percent of the work has been completed so far. “We’d levy penalty as per the contract documents, which allows us to deduct 10 percent of the total contract amount,” said the deputy manager. “We even called the contractor to our office, conducted several progress review meetings following the delays at both division and headquarter.”

However, he said, the contractor had genuine problems, like not finding workers and the weather conditions. “In the absence of local workers, he hired Indian workers, but they can’t work in extreme cold,” he said.  In early 2013, a strong windstorm damaged some completed portion of the work.

Jigme Sherub said, although they have told the contractor to complete the work as soon as possible and given six months duration, they are not sure if Laya will see electricity soon. “Natural disasters can hit anytime.” The contractor couldn’t be contacted.

On the wage issue, Jigme Sherub said that the amount would be deducted from the claims the contractor submits at the end of the work. “We’ve told the contractor to repay the dues as soon as possible,” said the deputy manager.

In the meantime, Layaps will have to do with waiting for electricity and wages.

Dawa Gyelmo,  Wangdue