Bihar power plant mulls temporary closure after staff held hostage by villagers
- Bihar would be deprived of 150 MW power if the NTPC were to shut down its BTPS plant.
The NTPC was mulling temporary closure of its Barauni Thermal Power Station (BTPS), located in Bihar’s Begusarai district, after villagers laid siege to the power plant, demanding compensation for the accidental death of a contractual labourer on national highway (NH) 28, on Tuesday afternoon.
Incensed villagers blocked all entry and exit points to the BTPS plant and virtually held around 750 plant officials and CISF security staff hostage. The Begusarai district administration hasn’t yet intervened to deescalate the situation.
Earlier on Tuesday, the district administration had removed the blockade from NH-28 but allowed the protesting villagers to squat in front of the BTPS gate on the adjacent road, hampering the functioning of the power plant.
“We may have to temporarily shut the plant if the villagers do not lift the blockade, which has continued for 22 hours now. Our personnel are fatigued, as they are continuously working since yesterday,” said NTPC spokesman Vishwanath Chandan.
“Essential supplies to our campus like milk and medicines have also been blocked. Many of our personnel are over 50 years of age and need medication. They are unable to go home as protestors have blocked their exit and at the same time are also not allowing workmen of other shifts to enter our premises. The NTPC has absolutely no correlation with the road traffic accident on NH-28,” he added.
Ramashish Thakur, 56, a contractual labourer with an outsourced firm, working for the NTPC, was killed after being hit by a speeding vehicle while returning home from work Tuesday afternoon. The villagers are now demanding compensation to the bereaved family.
“It’s difficult to understand why the NTPC Barauni employees, deployed on essential services, have been made hostage for the last 22 hours when the contractual worker died in a road accident on NH 28,” said Chandan.
Begusarai district magistrate Arvind Kumar Verma, said, “We are going to give an ex-gratia of ₹4 lakh to the next of the kin of the deceased under the disaster management act. The NTPC or its contractor has to fulfil some insurance obligations. Our officers, representatives of the NTPC and the police are presently having talks with the protesting villagers. We will resolve the issue within an hour.”
The NTPC, however, did not see any reason for the protesting villagers to hold their staff at ransom.
“The contractor, who engaged the said worker, has to fulfil statutory compliances under the labour law, which also includes extending benefits under the Employees’ State Insurance scheme, etc. There is no question of denial of his (worker’s) legitimate dues; so there should not be any reason for protest,” added Chandan.
The BTPS, which the state had transferred to the NTPC in December 2018, has an installed capacity of 360 MW presently. Bihar would be deprived of 150 MW power if the NTPC were to shut down its BTPS plant. The NTPC supplies almost 70% of the state’s average daily allocation of power from central utilities that was between 4,000 MW and 4,500 MW.