Hundreds of workers eat from a common mess

Phurpa Lhamo | Wangdue

If the nationwide lockdown continues, authorities or contractors of the mega hydroelectric projects in the Punatsangchhu basin are going to see another problem, food.

The projects have to feed thousands of workers who eat from a common mess. At the Jaiprakash Associates Limited (Jaypee Group) construction site, around 800 kg of wheat flour, 800 kg of rice, and about 700 kg of potatoes are used every day to prepare meals for the 2,800 workers at different sites. In a single day, about 400kg of mixed vegetables are also required.

Although there is a lack of choice, at the moment, essentials are available with the construction companies working with the Punatsangchhu- hydroelectric project (PHPA I and II).

Jaypee Group working for the PII has around 2,800 workers. This includes around 150 Bhutanese. Project manager of Jaypee Group, K K Sood, said that they received a truckload of vegetables every week from Phuentsholing prior to the lockdown. Today, vegetables are supplied from the dzongkhags.

On August 21, the company also received various vegetables from Athang gewog for the first time. K K Sood said that because the vegetables requirement at the mess was of huge quantity, what was received from the gewog wasn’t enough for a proper meal for around 2,800 men.

Jaypee Group is also trying to stock flour, which is an essential part of the Indian cuisine. K K Sood said that apart from lack of choice of vegetables, they have enough stock of essentials to last for more than a month.

Most construction companies working with PI and PII stock essential items to at least last a month. While vegetables are availed within certain timespan, items such as rice and flour are stocked.

Larsen and Toubro (L&T) Limited has around 400 employees including more than 80 Bhutanese working at four different sites.

At L&T mess, more than 150kg of rice, 170kg of vegetables and at least 45 kg of flour are cooked every day, according to Liaison Officer, Ramesh Kumar. Onions and tomatoes have become a problem as supply of tomatoes stopped a week ago and onions are short. “We are trying to limit consumption of tomatoes and onions. We have the essential items in the mess right now, which will last for around 20 to 30 days,” Ramesh Kumar Chhetri said.

Most of the construction companies arrange essential items from vegetable vendors in Bajo, Wangdue. “The dzongkhag administration has helped us arrange vegetables. We understand the need for the lockdown and appreciate it,” Ramesh Kumar Chhetri said.

Despite the arrangements, some workers are waiting for the lockdown to lift, so they could leave for home. Eleven workers of Jaypee Group who were ready to leave for India have been stranded because of the lockdown.