Millennium Post

No wages for contractual workers of Darjeeling's iconic toy train

Darjeeling: The sad plight of contractual workers of the world heritage Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (DHR) has come to light with them complaining of not receiving wages for the months of April and May during the lockdown period.

Kishor Sunam, a contractual worker who transports coal that provides steam to the train, stated: "We work day in and day out to keep the world heritage toy train running. Such is our condition since the lockdown that we are not being able to provide for our families even. We have not received wages for the months of April and May during lockdown."

Sunam has been working as a contractual worker since 1981 and is under a contractor.

"We appeal to the Railway minister to help us and save us from this. We can't even go out and receive free aid in the form of dry ration and vegetables being distributed by NGOs as people misunderstand, question as to why Railway employees are receiving free aid despite drawing salaries. They do not know that we are contractual workers," stated Sunam.

He also added that the contractor has been asking for a written order from the Railways which the latter has not furnished yet.

Calls to the Director, DHR, went unanswered.

Talking to Millennium Post, Animesh Das, the contractor, stated: "The principal contractor is the Railways. They pay me and I in turn disburse the wages. They have not given me any instruction regarding the two-month lockdown period. If they give me an order, I can pay the workers and later claim the amount. Without an order they might not pay me later stating that the train did not run and workers did not come to work."

Das further stated that he had contacted the concerned authority who had claimed to get back after a meeting on this issue.

There are 11 contractual workers in Darjeeling; six in Kurseong; seven in Tindharia and seven in Siliguri.

In 1879, work first started on the DHR, then called the Darjeeling Steam Tramways. DHR was inscribed as a world heritage site on December 2, 1999.

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