Shortage of laborers hinders construction of Samdrupjongkhar to Jomotshangkha highway

During meet the press, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering said that knowing the challenges faced by the people of Jomotshangkha, Lauri and Menjong, they are planning to complete the construction of Samdrupjongkhar to Jomotshangkha highway at the earliest taking advantage of a pleasant weather.

Lyonchhen said that the construction work is going on; however, it’s not going as planned due to shortage of laborers at site.

“We need thousands of laborers and we know why we are not able to deploy the required laborers. Knowing the need of foreign laborers in the country, we have started bringing in the foreign laborers. IMTART, DANTAK and hydropower projects are the agencies that require maximum number of foreign laborers,” he added.

The government after bringing down the number to minimum, brought in around 660 foreign laborers since 1 October, including those few laborers demanded by private construction firms. Of the 660 laborers, 49 tested for COVID-19.

Lyonchhen said, “Had we allowed the import of laborers as demanded by the agencies and the construction firms, the highway would have been connected by now but we failed to provide as demanded.”

Thinking if Bhutanese would be interested, DANTAK announced vacancies with a salary of Nu 15,000 to Nu 18, 000 a month and with food, however, no one showed up.

Lyonchhen said that DANTAK hired local machines for the work and even decided to give the work to sub-contractors, but with no workers at site it remained challenging for them.

“The work again resumed few days ago and after discussing with the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS), in two months’ time they are to finish formation cutting of 20 KM. MoWHS has taken over the construction of two long bridges along the highway,” he added.

DANTAK has other projects as well, however, the government has requested them to adjust workers from other projects and to prioritize the construction of Samdrupjongkhar to Jomotshangkha highway.

If they are able to complete the work on time, DANTAK will need to have more than 200 workers deployed at site; however, everyone should realize it is not so convenient to do so at this point of time, Lyonchhen said.

He added, “Some point finger on us saying we are not doing our job while some suggest to stop bringing in the foreign laborers due to increase in number of positive cases in the country. Therefore, we have to choose one of the two. There is no right and wrong and we must come to one conclusion.” 

Nevertheless, he said that they are looking at every means to complete the work at the earliest.

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