Festivals and elections cause labour shortage at construction projectsAmong the affected is Tamor Corridor Road Project in east Nepal.
Currently, only a small number of workers are engaged in the construction of the Tamor Corridor Road Project, whose different sections are either seeing gravel being laid or passage being opened.
This road spanning Sunsari and Taplejung districts will be 121 kilometres long and connect Subhangkhola, Dobhan and Olanchungola, a border point with China.
“The contractors involved in opening the passage and laying gravel have not brought workers from various parts of the country, citing elections,” said Amindra Khadka, chief of the project. “Most workers returned to their homes at the start of the monsoon and have not returned. Traditionally, construction work stalls during the monsoon as well as Dashain and Tihar festivals.”
According to Khadka, the contractors have not brought their labourers although the big festivals are already over. “Around 300 workers were mobilised when work had peaked. Now, only 30-40 local workers remain. They too have now gone home to cast their votes.”
The contractors would normally bring workers from different parts of the country right after Dashain and Tihar festivals as the local workers wouldn’t be sufficient to complete the task on time.
“Given the federal and provincial elections, the contractors have been waiting to get them back to the project,” said Khadka, who was himself on election duty at Meringden Rural Municipality of Taplejung district. “All the staff under my command have been sent on a week-long deputation to various places for the elections.”
Government officials and contractors say the work of development projects have been affected by the absence of government employees and workers due to the elections.
Over the years, the construction work has been affected due to multiple factors, including lack of proper supervision from government agencies and consultants, the lack of any serious effort from contractors, and corruption.
In 2022, largely due to the local, provincial and federal elections, construction activities have been affected across the country, according to officials and contractors. As of November 19, the government’s capital expenditure stood at just seven percent of the allocated capital budget, according to the Financial Comptroller General Office.
The contractors say they could not bring workers to the construction sites as most of the workers are away for elections.
Ramesh Sharma, the chairperson of Sharma and Company, one of the leading construction companies in Nepal, said that most of the construction projects handled by his company have been affected by a shortage of labour in recent days. “Citing the elections, workers who had gone home to celebrate Dashain, Tihar and Chhath, have not returned to work,” he said.
According to Sharma, labour shortage has badly affected work in a section of the Hulaki Rajmagarga (Postal Highway), where his company has been awarded the contract.
“I have not been able to bring workers for the construction of a bridge over Kali Gandaki river because of the monsoon, festivals, and elections,” said Rabi Singh, president of the Federation of Contractors’ Association of Nepal (FCAN), the umbrella organisation of contractors.
According to Singh, workers hailing from hilly regions have not returned to work since Dashain festival and workers from Tarai have not returned since the Tihar and Chhath festivals because of their engagement in election campaigns.
According to contractors, the lull is also due to the absence of government employees because they too have been sent on election duty.
According to the Election Commission, it has mobilised 246,990 government employees, excluding security personnel, for the elections. With the commission expecting to take around two weeks to complete the counting of votes, a small number of government employees will continue to remain busy until the counting is completed while a majority will resume their duties.
“The absence of government employees for a few days will not affect the construction work much,” said Umesh Bindu Shrestha, chief of the bridge division of the Department of Road.