One legged Bhutanese laborer works against odds in Thimphu to take care of sick mother

Work is hard to come by for 44-year-old construction labourer, Dil Kumar Rai, from Gathiya, Samtse. He is currently residing in Changiji, Thimphu. He makes around Nu 15,000 a month when he does find work.

He lives alone in the capital as his wife left him years ago. He said he has no contact with his only daughter who is married. His three siblings work in apple orchards. Dil Kumar Rai contributes in taking care of his sick mother, and his father passed away last year.

It has been 13 years since he became handicapped, losing his right leg in a construction site accident in 2003. His leg was completely amputated by a mixture machine that he was operating. The private construction company paid him a one-time compensation of Nu 40,000.

“I had suffered a lot by myself, it is hard to sustain in the capital without income, and I can’t sustain on begging my whole life. I decided to work hard, no matter how tough it is going to be, and I started working,” he said.

Dil Kumar Rai relies on his friends to pass on information on work openings. He said, “Many people don’t trust me with the work because I am a handicap, and it is hard to convince them that I can do the work. I am working this hard to make a living and to look after my mother.”

It is hard for Dil Kumar Rai to find a well paying construction job or a long duration project. “I rarely earn Nu 15,000 per month. I don’t get straight labour work. Before I used to go for wall construction, machine operating and could manage to handle any kind of works, but now, with one leg, I can do only side work, like small wall leveling,” he said.

He added that some companies give unfair wages to labourers, especially to a handicap like him. He is currently working at the Changjiji Lhakhang construction site.

His motivation to work hard comes from his mother. Out of his meager earnings, he keeps money aside to look after his mother who is not keeping well. “I wish to do other part time jobs, but who would give me a work with one leg? I sometime feel frustrated with my life, but I console myself all the time thinking about my sick mother,” he added.

Dil Kumar Rai reminisces about his life before the accident, when he was able-bodied and handling all the blasting and machinery works in the private construction company.  He was slated to be the next head machines operator, but before the appointment, he had the unfortunate accident.

He continued to work for the same company for three years but resigned due to heavy workload.  He found work in a petrol pump station, but he had to resign after a year due to dismal pay.

“I worked hard but there was a situation where the drivers misused the oil, but at the end of the month, the amount of oil shortage was cut from all salaries. I used to get Nu 1,800 to Nu 2,000 in hand. Still, I didn’t give up, but one fine day the case went so big that it required police involvement.  I resigned as I didn’t want to get locked up with no reason or fault of my own,” he added.

He is in no position to get any disability allowance or help from the government as he had worked for a private company.  “I wish I never met with that accident.  By now, I would have made a good living out of my earnings. However, though I am a handicap, I will still work hard to make my living without begging or without being involved in any criminal offence. It is hard to sustain with one leg, but I will continue doing so until my last breath,” he added.

Dil Kumar Rai said he goes on about his life with dignity and pride knowing that he is making an honest living.

He said, “Those people standing on their own two legs and can work with their two hands must not indulge in any criminal offence and work honestly. Don’t beg. Don’t lose hope. Be honest with your work and it will eventually turn out to be fine.”



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