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regular-article-logo Thursday, 22 February 2024

Unsure when work will resume, Silkyara tunnel labourers in dilemma; stay back or return home

Another labourer said his mother wants him to quit the tunnelling job. 'We work in such conditions, it is dangerous,' he said

PTI Uttarkashi Published 30.11.23, 03:45 PM
According to a government official, the construction work could only be resumed after a safety audit of the tunnel

According to a government official, the construction work could only be resumed after a safety audit of the tunnel File picture

Workers at the Silkyara tunnel are now faced with a dilemma, whether to stay back or return to their homes, which their family members desperately want them to do, days after 41 trapped labourers were evacuated in an almost 17-day-long rescue operation.

"I have filled up the leave application form to go back home. We don't know when the construction work will resume," a machine operator from Bihar said.

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Another labourer said his mother wants him to quit the tunnelling job. "We work in such conditions.... it is dangerous," he said.

According to a government official, the construction work could only be resumed after a safety audit of the tunnel. The mountain was drilled from the top to about 45 meters to rescue the trapped workers and the debris was still lying in the tunnel, he said.

"We don't know whether we have to stay back or should we home," a labourer from Odisha who has been working at the Silkyara Tunnel site for the past two years told PTI on Thursday.

The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited under the supervision of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had begun the construction work of this tunnel four years ago. The project aims to decrease between Yamunotri and Gangotri on the National Highway of the Char Dham route from 28 km to 4.5 km.

On Wednesday, a worker said he was given two days of rest by his contractor. "We have been asked to take rest for one to two days but we are planning to extend our leaves," said another worker from Uttar Pradesh.

The workers -- masons, foremen, machine operators and electricians -- are lodged in porta cabins set up around 200 meters from the tunnel in Silkyara. At least four to five workers stay in one cabin. "The expenses for food are provided by our company," an Assamese worker said. The officer and administrative employees live in the guest houses and homestays near the tunnel site, another worker said.

A worker from Jharkhand said, "My contractor has asked me to stay back for two to three days, but I am planning to go home for some days." He said out of his 15 colleagues, four had already returned home while three were trapped in the tunnel.

Akhilesh Singh from Uttar Pradesh was one of 41 labourers trapped in the tunnel. "His uncle came and took his luggage a day after a portion of the tunnel collapsed," a room partner of Singh told PTI.

Asked what they will do now, he said, "I will not quit the job but if I get leave I will visit my home."

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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