NHPC agree to pay one-time compensation to Teesta quarry workers before Durga puja

NHPC Teesta Low Dam P -III
A much-awaited breakthrough was arrived at when the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) agreed to compensate workers of the nine quarries affected by the commissioned Teesta Low Dam projects in Kalimpong sub-division. Quarry workers from 29th Mile (Balwa Khani), Geil Khola, Tin Bola, Ravi Jhora, Teesta Bridge and Teesta Bazar staged demonstrations outside the Darjeeling district magistrate’s office even as hill Trinamool Congress leaders held a meeting with the additional district magistrate and NHPC officials to arrive at a conclusion. Residents living in the vicinity of the Teesta have depended on the quarries for their livelihood since the 1980s. But since the past four years, the dams built by the NHPC- Stage IV at Kalijhora and Stage III in Rambhi have covered the riverbeds, robbing the locals of their only source of income. The demand of the more-than 500 workers united under the aegis of the TMC-affiliated Koiry Mazdoor Sangathan is that they be either absorbed in the NHPC or be compensated through a one-time settlement basis. NHPC officials ruled out the demand for job but have decided to pay the quarry workers an interim compensation in the form of wages for the time being, while the one-time settlement will be paid before Durga puja. Additional district magistrate U. Swaroop said the NHPC has agreed to compensate the quarry workers instead of absorbing them into various unskilled jobs. “The NHPC officials clearly pointed out only skilled workers could be absorbed and, in any case, it would not be possible to provide jobs to so many people. However, it has been decided that the quarry workers would be paid a one-time settlement compensation that will be worked out by higher authorities of the NHPC before the Pujas,” the ADM said. KMS general secretary Sanjog Gupta expressed satisfaction with the NHPC’s decision to compensate the workers. “The quarries, which are the primary source of income for the people of the area, have remained closed for nearly four years. It was getting really difficult for the workers to sustain their families. However, now with the NHPC agreeing to compensate them, things will be easier for the workers and their families,” he said. Hill TMC spokesperson Binny Sharma said, “The NHPC dams robbed the income source of 513 workers. We are happy that the NHPC has agreed to our demand for a one-time settlement to these jobless people. The interim compensation will be handed out in the form of wages as per existing government norms, and the amount will be fixed within the next 10 days while distribution will take place before the Pujas,” he said. Fifty-year-old Ram Bahadur Chhetri, who has been working in the Teesta bridge quarry for over 15 years, said it was getting difficult for him to travel 15 km downstream everyday to reach another quarry and that the compensation had come as a great relief. “It was really getting hard on my physical and mental state because of the daily commute to another faraway quarry without satisfactory returns. Now that the NHPC has decided to compensate us, the money will go a long way in sustaining my family of four. I only hope the compensation is substantial,” he said. NHPC officials refused to comment, saying “we are not entitled to say anything to the press”, while higher authorities of the company could not be reached. (EOIC)

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