The strike by local labourers working on 8.5-km Qazigund-Banihal tunnel—undertaken by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI)—against "disparity in wages" entered its 24th day Wednesday, hampering work on the project that has already been marred by delays.
The Qazigund-Banihal portion of the highway expansion project is undertaken by the NHAI's Srinagar-based Project Implementing Unit and has already missed several deadlines. A fresh deadline of the project is May, 2016.
On May 27 this year, Minister for Roads & Buildings Syed Altaf Bukhari expressed concern over the slow pace of work on the stretch and directed the executing agency—Navayuga Engineering Company—to increase its work hours for timely completion of the project.
"Only 5.5-km stretch of the tunnel is complete on both sides while work on 3-km is still incomplete," sources said.
With around 800 local labourers and workers on strike for the past 23 days over "ill-treatment meted to them", the work has stopped for now.
From Kashmir side, the local labourers are on strike for the past 24 days, and for the past eight days from Jammu side. The labourers accuse the company of "discriminating with them vis-à-vis wages."
They argue that their counterparts from outside the state are paid more wages.
"There is a huge disparity in payment of wages between us and those from outside the state," said a group of local labouers. "This is discrimination and injustice which we won't tolerate."
The local labourers are also demanding "over-time remuneration" of 14 months during which the work remained off previously.
An official in Regional Labour Commissioner's office however termed this demand of non-local labourers as "illogical."
"We have already paid them wages but cannot give them overtime remuneration as the work was off during that period," he said.