Villagers of Serthi and Lauri complained of not receiving labour contribution payment for rural electrification

Visit: The issue of delayed labour payment was the highlight of the discussion during Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s visit to Serthi and Lauri in Jomotsangkha on May 16.

Villagers claimed that they had contributed labour by carrying electric poles, wires and other raw materials. However, even upon completion of the rural electrification project, most villagers are yet to be paid by the contractor.

Villagers said that it has been about a year since they haven’t received the full payment although they did receive an advance payment earlier.

Dhendup, a villager from Lauri said the contractor owes him Nu 50,000. He said villagers struggled transporting heavy poles and wires besides other physical work to install transformers.

“We don’t know why we aren’t paid still and if it’s the government or the contractor responsible,” he said.

Most villagers claimed that they had worked hard carrying materials for days, as both the gewogs didn’t have road connectivity then. They also said that they have documents to provide as evidence.

Another villager, Dhendup Dorji, said that the contractor might be able to pay the dues if the government does not levy a penalty upon him. “We heard he has some issues with bills with Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC),” he said. “But the contractor worked hard and we managed to receive electricity on time.”

The villagers requested if the government could intervene and ask the contractor to pay.

Besides the issue of delayed payment, villagers also raised the issue of unreliable and erratic electricity supply. They also thanked the government for establishing a central school in Serthi that has greatly benefitted the two gewogs.

Concerned over the issue of delayed payment, Lyonchoen said that the contractor would be penalised, if the issue is true.

Lyonchoen assured villagers that he would take up the issue with BPC and ask them to carry out the necessary investigation.

“The gewog office has already informed and reminded the contractor, we’ll definitely help sort out the issue,” Lyonchoen said. “We’ll act based on the investigation and that will be very soon.”

Meanwhile, contractor Chorten Tshering said he would pay the villagers as soon as he receives the final payment from BPC.

“As soon as I clear the bill for shortage of about Nu 3 million (M) worth of materials and penalty of Nu 2.8M, I will pay the villagers,” he said. Although the villagers worked hard, he said they misused the materials by removing the bolts to reduce the weight, and that they used to take only half the set and causing the loss of other items.

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Jomotsangkha