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Riots lead to labour crunch at NTPC site

The NTPC project at Salakati. Telegraph picture

Guwahati, Nov. 2: The riots in the BTAD area and Dhubri district have taken a heavy toll on the NTPC’s 750MW Bongaigaon Thermal Power Project and the authorities expect the full job force to resume work only by the end of this month.

The riots broke out in July and their impact is still being felt as many people are still living in relief camps in different areas of BTAD and Dhubri.

“The labour force has just started trickling in and we expect full activity by the end of this month. The fear factor is still there,” a senior official at the project site told The Telegraph.

The official said the project was important for meeting Assam’s power demand, which has been increasing. Although Assam has been demanding the full share of power from the project, the Centre is yet to agree on this.

NTPC is implementing the 750MW thermal Power Project at Salakati, which is 10km from Kokrajhar. Investment approval was done in January 2008 and the main plant was awarded in February 2008.

The sanctioned cost of the project is Rs 4,375.35 crore, of which Rs 3,325.28 crore has been spent till August. The scheduled date of completion was 2011 and authorities are hoping to commission the project by the end of next year. The project will be able to work in full swing only by 2014.

A project status report of NTPC stated that most of the workers had fled from the site on July 20 and even local workers refused to turn up out of fear. This stopped work at Bongaigaon Thermal Power Project.

It also stated that the outbreak of subsequent violence and imposition of curfew in August had worsened the situation in Kokrajhar. The worker turnout at the Bongaigaon site was drastically reduced and work at different areas came to a halt because supply lines for essential construction materials, like sand, industrial gas and diesel, were affected.

“The majority of skilled workers are deployed from outside (due to scarcity of local skill). With the present turmoil and tense situation in the district, it may be difficult to restore the confidence among skilled workers from different parts of the country to come to Salakati for work resumption (only skeleton workforce is available at site). Due to this, the agencies, including sub-agencies, have expressed their difficulties to start work till the situation returns to normal,” the report said.

The official said BTC authorities had extended full co-operation to resume work at the project site and numerous meetings had been held in this regard.

An NTPC official from Delhi said the riots had a demoralising effect and contracting agencies were finding it difficult to get work. “People are gradually coming (back) to work,” the official said.

Strikes called by various organisations and parties have always affected and delayed work.