KMRC seeks state’s help for extension of visas of Thai workers

KOLKATA: Kolkata Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (KMRC) has urged the state home department to approach the Ministry of Home Affairs for extension of visas of 45 Thai workers recruited in the Kolkata East-West Metro Corridor project.

It has apprehended that the progress of the project, the first phase of which is scheduled to begin in 2015 end, will be seriously hampered if these workers are to be replaced by a fresh batch.

Visas of these workers expired on 31 March. According to a recent notification issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, extension of employment visas has been restricted only for those with an annual salary of US$ 25,000 and above. However, the salaries of these workers do not fall under this category as a result of which they are not eligible for an extension of their visas and in which case they will have to leave India.

This has left the KMRC in a spot as these workers are engaged in the task of constructing sophisticated tunneling and underground work. Managing director of KMRC, Mr H K Sharma, has written to state home secretary Mr Basudeb Banerjee requesting the state home department to take up the issue with “utmost urgency” for completing the project on time.

In the letter, Mr Sharma pointed out: “The association of these Thai internationals with the project is indispensable.” In fact, KMRC feels that the progress of the project will be seriously affected if these workers are sent back since they were involved in the project right from the beginning. Around 36 per cent of the project has been completed so far and bringing in a new group of workers will create a bottleneck.

Moreover, manpower possessing the specific technical skills that are required for the underground tunneling work is not very commonly found in India, read the letter.

In the 14.58 km stretch of the Kolkata East-West Metro Corridor project connecting Salt Lake Sector V to Howrah Maidan, there will be 12 stations of which six will be elevated and six underground. A total of 65 Thai international workers are engaged in sophisticated tunneling and underground tasks, including construction of an underpass from “Mahakaran station” to Howrah that will be constructed under River Hooghly at a depth of 20 metres. There will be another underpass between Central station to Subhas Sorovar covering 5.26 km.

Unless the state home department manages to get an exemption in visa extension, many of the Thai internationals working in Kolkata East West Metro Corridor project will have to be released soon.