11k Jharkhand workers to build roads near China boundary

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Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren has allowed the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to induct 11,815 workers from his state to build critical roads in areas close to the China border after being assured that their welfare and rights will be safeguarded, people familiar with the development said on Sunday.

The state government conveyed its consent to BRO in a letter dated June 6. It gave the permission after getting assurances on concerns flagged by it about the welfare of workers and wages not being paid in time, the officials said.

In a letter to the Jharkhand government on the movement of migrant labour dated June 5, BRO clarified several aspects related to the fixing and payment of wages, medical facilities, injury benefits, ration, clothing, free conveyance and work hours.

On safeguarding the interest of the workers, the letter said, “The BRO is committed to safeguard the interest of the labour who are the backbone of the organisation. It has been the constant endeavour of the BRO to ensure that the aspirations of the labourers are met and their legitimate wages are paid in time.”

The officials said BRO has communicated to the state the revised wages that will be paid to all categories of workers --- unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled --- who will get 15% to 20% extra from June 10, the officials said.

The workers will be transported on 11 trains to Jammu and Chandigarh, and then be ferried to border areas in Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where BRO is constructing important roads, as reported by HT on May 31.

The move comes even as Indian and Chinese soldiers are eyeball to eyeball at four locations along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. The roads on which works are being carried out include the strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulet Beg Oldie (DS-DBO) road.

The Chinese troop build-up in the Galwan area threatens the critical DS-DBO road and if the project is blocked, the Indian army will be forced to use aerial supply lines and prepare for an arduous alternative route.

HT on April 28 reported BRO’s plans to induct up to 40,000 workers to carry out the construction of key roads and tunnels in far-flung areas in the forward areas along the China border despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

BRO employs a labour force of around 100,000 workers for its various construction projects. Of this, around 60,000 workers are employed locally and the rest of the requirement is met through hiring migrant labour.

BRO’s peak working season extends from May to November. Migrant workers are a key part of the organisation’s workforce involved in building strategic roads in Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. It plans to complete all 61 strategic roads assigned to it along the China border by December 2022 to allow swifter mobilisation of troops and stores to forward areas.

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