PHPA-2 continues work with 1,000 workers of which half are Bhutanese

Though the PHPA-2 requires anywhere between 2500 to 2800 people the project has just above 1,000 people working on the site.

The imported workers normally work in a cyclic process where-in they work for about 3 to 4 months on an average or at the maximum stay for no longer than 8 months, therefore the shortage of workers had always been a challenge.

Initially the project had made requisition to the government for the import of workers; however, the 21-day quarantine and test made it a longer process.

In an alternative suggestion by the government the project was allowed to airlift the workers through Bagdora, however as per the officials even if the contractor at the other end did manage to gather about 150-200 workers, due to the approval taking a long time, only about a handful of people would follow along.

 As an alternative the project hired a little more than 500 Bhutanese people.

The project received more than 2,600 applications for the vacancies but could not employ even half of them considering that most of the applicants were women or failed to meet the required skill level.

The officials said that those who had applied for the skilled positions did have prior working experiences at other sites but were short of the skills required for the project. The project had announced skilled worker vacancies for welders, bar winders, carpenters and also for non-skilled workers.

The officials said that women could not be employed in large numbers as they would also be required to go inside dark trenches and work on night-shift basis and security in groups cannot always be ascertained.

However, the project did recruit around 60 female workers and although prior to that there were no women working at the sites, the project also established a separate hostel facility for women workers.

 Reportedly, another challenge in taking Bhutanese workforce was in the nature of work, where each worker has to work for 12 hours and without Sundays.

Other challenges which arose due to difference in food culture and accommodation too were handled by the project by providing separate mess facility and adjustments in accommodation.

For other skilled expatriate the project has a separate quarantine facility off from the site.

After the mandatory 21-days of institution quarantine arranged by the RGoB, the workers on reaching the project site are sent on an extra 7-days quarantine after which they would be tested with the standard health measures in place.

Since the Bajo Hospital is a bit far off from the site, the project recently released budget to the nearby BHU for installing and developing health facilities so that the tests can be done in a shorter period and it would also avoid any loose ends in case an imported worker tests positive.

 As for the project, the Managing Director Amresh Kumar said that after the lockdown was partially lifted by the Government, they had a consultation meeting with the Dzongkhag administration and the project was allowed to continue as a cordoned off (self-contained mode) area and with the health safety protocols in place as guided by the ministry.

He said, “Due to the restricted work environment the productivity levels have been affected but critical areas are being looked into and the works are continuing.”

He added, “The project is making best efforts to commission the work as promised even with the constraints and restrictions in place.”

The MD said that incentives have been implemented on top of the workers’ normal wages with the approval of the Chairman Lyonpo Loknath Sharma. 

Currently, the project has only deployed a few buses to ferry the workers from site to site. In terms of materials, presently the project has been importing in a very restricted mode with frequent consultation with the MoEA and RRCO for facilitation in registering.

Certain materials had to be airlifted from Kolkata and Germany for some of the ongoing works with the help of Druk Air.

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