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For many residing in dzongkhags without a single Covid-19 case, forget restrictions or lockdowns, life seems normal. We go to work, shop, gather at official  and leisure meetings. Children are preparing for the midterm examinations and summer holidays. Parliament session is on discussing development priorities, questioning governance and amending laws. And we look forward to weekends to play archery, a game of football or watch the tournaments.

Beyond Thimphu, the capital, it is not the same. Phuentsholing is locked down for almost two months now. Four gewogs in Samtse and some in Samdrupjongkhar and Trashigang are also under lockdown. We can only imagine the difficulties they are going through. It is peak summer. It is hot in the plains and staying inside day and night for nearly two months is difficult. Not all have the luxury of fans or air conditioner or private areas. In towns like Phuentsholing, many share small apartments. They are waiting for the situation to improve so that they can come out and breath fresh air. 

Yesterday, the health minister, from her quarantine hotel, shared the details of the Covid-19 status, reminded and warned how still vulnerable we are and how we as individuals can play our part in overcoming the pandemic. She urged the people to be cautious.

In the east, His Majesty The King walked from Merak to Jomotshangkha through trails that not many of us have even seen or heard of. Concerned by the increasing community infections and the hardship people are going through, His Majesty who recently returned from the south is in Jomotshangkha to oversee the measures put in to save the people. 

Despite all the efforts, cases are on the rise. The manner in which positive cases are detected both from primary contacts and communities indicate that we the people are failing in playing our part. The lockdowns are to help contain the spread of the virus. There are questions when new cases are reported even after several lockdowns. Considering the inconvenience lockdowns caused and knowing that the cooperation of the people are important in this fight, the minister requested people to be more responsible. 

Some in the border towns are more blatant. They are convinced that illegal activities are happening along the porous border undoing the efforts put in to save the people. Some are even suspecting hands of those tasked to prevent illegal activities. Many are wondering, for instance, why tobacco products are readily available in the market – not the ones from the duty-free outlets.

Legalising the sale of tobacco from duty free outlets and shops they identified had not helped curb the thriving black market. For once, duty-free is selling spurious goods, especially chewing tobacco. 

Some smart businessmen across the border has taken the government for a ride. A packet of chewing tobacco with a maximum retail price of Nu 3, has copy or duplicate version. The popular chewing tobacco, Baba, still sells for Nu 70 to 80 in the black market. The one available for Nu 150 for 12 packets from the duty-free outlets is not Baba. The new brand, Takin,  came after the second nationwide lockdown. Not many are after Takin keeping the black market and smuggling alive even after taking the risk to legalise the sale of tobacco.

Smuggling tobacco is a lucrative market, so lucrative that it entice people to forget their Gyenkhu(responsibilities). There will be no tobacco in the black market if the decision worked. Or there is something happening at the border towns illegally, forgetting our Gyenkhu?

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