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Barrage boatmen work without salary

- Departments pass the payment buck, ‘heroes’ rue lack of recognition

For the trio, salary can wait for another month like the last four but humanity cannot.

The three boat operators — Randhir Kumar, Upendra Kumar, Sujeet Kumar — working at the Birpur Kosi barrage since 2008 claimed that they are yet to get salary from April. Incidentally, all the three boat operators were felicitated by former chief minister Nitish Kumar in 2010 in Birpur for their contribution in saving lives.

Randhir, deployed in the barrage region for search and rescue operations, river survey and other works, told The Telegraph over phone: “We went to the water resources department only to be told that funds for our salary has not arrived. We work in very difficult conditions and our salary (Rs 12,000 per month) is not sufficient to meet our needs.”

Water resources minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary said his department was not responsible for disbursing salary to the boat operators. “The disaster management department has separate funds for them. They have to coordinate with Supaul.”

Aniruddha Kumar, special secretary, disaster management department, defended his department’s action. “According to our reports, we have already issued funds for the salary of the boat operators. Ask the Supaul district magistrate why their salary was not given. It is a serious matter if the boat operators are not paid yet,” he said.

However, Laxmi Prasad Choudhary, district magistrate, Supaul, claimed the water resources department was to pay the salary of the boat operators in Birpur Kosi barrage.

Randhir added: “While awarding us in 2010 for our contribution in saving lives in the flood-affected region, Nitish had promised us that he would make our services regularised but this promise has also not been fulfilled. We are working on contract.”

Upendra seconded his colleague: “We are assigned work in the places, which are hard to reach. Sometimes, we have to work 24 hours. We also don’t find any medical care in case of emergency. In 2010, we met with an accident. The sluice gates of the barrage were suddenly opened and we were not informed about it. One of my legs was fractured in that accident but I was not provided any kind of medical assistance by senior officials deputed at the site. The difficulties, which we face during our duty, are worth it if we are given proper recognition for our work.”