An act of sheer negligence: MV Dugar Group sends workers home as they test positive for coronavirus

KATHMANDU: The wide-spreading COVID-19 pandemic has struck all sectors. The government has set some standards for the control and mitigation of risks related to this pandemic.

It has warned that anyone not abiding the standards will face harsh consequences from the government as per the Infectious Disease Act 1964.

However, the MV Dugar Group’s Likhu Khola Hydropower Project situated at the border of Ramechhap and Solukhumbu has sent 47 workers back home after they were tested positive for coronavirus.

Defying the mandatory regulations which require such companies to arrange for quarantine facilities for workers testing positive, the company has sent the workers through public vehicles and trippers.

According to Ganesh Bahadur Kshetri, the Mayor of Madhuvan Municipality, the workers who were in the quarantine of Likhupike Rural Municipality have been transported to Madhuvan Municipality illegally through public vehicles and tippers.

The workers who came to Khabarhub’s contact from an isolation center in Bardiya said the moment they were found COVID-19 positive, they were rushed back to Bardiya through tippers and public buses.

“Prevalent legal provisions and the directives of the federal government also hail that provided someone tests positive, they should be kept in the isolation in the same area,” Mayor Kshetri said, “However, Solukhumbu administration and the hydropower project have breached the provision.”

He revealed that only after he phoned Bardiya’s Chief District Officer and requested to help out they were kept safely in the quarantine in Bardiya.

According to him, the PCR report of the workers has come positive in Bardiya as well.

Madhuvan Municipality has protested against the Solukhumbu administration for the latter’s breach of regulation.

In the meantime, the Mayor of Likhupike Rural Municipality from where the workers were taken away, expressed innocence about the incidence and remarked that it’s an act of defy of the local administration’s directives as well.

“We have found that the company has transported the COVID-19 positive workers defying our directives. We have called a meeting of the executive committee here,” Dambar Bahadur Basnet, the Mayor of Likhupike Rural Municipality told Khabarhub.

“We have called the contractor of the company as well,” he said.

They brought us to Bardiya in two days: COVID-19 positive workers

The workers who came to Khabarhub’s contact from an isolation center in Bardiya said the moment they were found COVID-19 positive, they were rushed back to Bardiya through tippers and public buses.

“The company first took us there and kept in the quarantine where other COVID-19 positive people were kept,” a worker told Khabarhub. “They arranged for the test on September 30, and the report that came after 3 days showed that out of 67 workers there, 47 tested positive for coronavirus.”

He added that immediately after finding them positive, they were sent back in a tipper and a bus.

According to him, they were sent in a tipper and a bus up to Gokul Ganga of Ramechhap district and after that, they were sent to Bardiya in two public buses.

The Chief Executive Officer of Hydropower Project Deepak Paudel refrained from his responsibility and claimed that it was not the project but the petty contractors who might have done so.

Paudel said that petty contractor Janak Construction Service had brought the workers from Bardiya and later sent them back. They have the provision that only the workers who test COVID-19 negative can be deployed for work.

He claimed that the workers insisted on going home and started home during night time adding that the workers requested him to arrange for transportation. “We only facilitated,” he told Khabarhub.

“The workers even told us that they desperately wanted to go back to their villages,” he added.

However, the workers claim that they were sent home forcefully.

It’s wrong: health experts

Dr. Basu Dev Pandey, the Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, says that wherever the cases are noticed, the patients have to be taken care of in isolation in the same place.

“As long travel of coronavirus positive patients put the lives of many others at risk, they should stay wherever they are,” Dr. Pandey told Khabarhub.

“There is the provision of treating such people in isolation of the same district and it should be done in the same way.”

He added that the infected patients have to be taken to other districts only when the treatment there is not possible, yet no patient should be taken to other districts against their own will.

Health Ministry’s health safety standards also prohibit transporting the COVID-19 positive and other normal people together.

Legal Provisions

Together with the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, the government has revived the Infectious Disease Act 1964.

Clause 3(1) of the Act says: “A person who violates this Act or disregards any order issued under this Act shall be liable to the punishment of imprisonment for a term not exceeding one month or a fine not exceeding One Hundred Rupees or with both.”

Similarly, Clause 3(2) has the provision that a person who obstructs a person authorized under this Act with the performance of his/her duties shall be liable to the punishment of imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding Rs 600 or both.

Dugar Group’s hydropower project

MV Dugar Group, through the auxiliary companies, is constructing three hydropower projects of a total 157 MW in the border of Uma Kunda Rural Municipality, Ramechhap and Likhupike Rural Municipality, Solukhumbu.

The assistant companies working on behalf of MV Dugar Group are Pan Himalaya Energy Pvt. Ltd (77 MW Likhu 1), Global Hydropower Associates Pvt. Ltd (51 MW Likhu 2) and Numbur Himalaya Hydropower Pvt. Ltd (29 MW Likhu A).

The news that such a massive company has acted so irresponsibly as to send the COVID-19 positive workers forcefully to their home has drawn wide criticism.

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