Staff Reporter

An initiative of the Bajo town committee to contribute to the government’s Covid-19 respond fund has not gone well with some shopkeepers in the town.

Some shop owners are alleging that the town committee members were collecting contribution against their will. According to shop owners, the committee members divided themselves into two groups of seven members each and began collecting money since April 7 in the town area.

They said they were asked to contribute a minimum of Nu 1,000 for the fund.

A shopkeeper, who chose to remain anonymous, said the committee members refused to accept their contribution of Nu 200 to Nu 500.

Another shopkeeper said he contributed Nu 500 but the committee members refused to accept it, claiming it was less. “They had a list of those of us who failed to contribute Nu 1,000 and we were warned that our business license would be affected.”

He also alleged the committee members did not even provide receipts for the contributions.

A bar owner said she could not operate her business for several days, as there was no customer and was struggling to pay rent. “If we have more, we would be more than willing to contribute for the good cause.”

Another shop owner also said that without any customers, she closed her shop for the past few weeks. “I received a call from one of the committee members on the morning of April 7 asking me to come to the shop. I didn’t know the reason.”

She said that when she arrived at her shop, she was asked for donation. “I shared my problem with them but the members noted down my name and asked me to sign for failing to contribute.”

She alleged that later that day, the town’s representatives verbally threatened those who couldn’t contribute in a Wechat group. “I was worried and embarrassed. I had to ask from those who took credits and managed to contribute on April 8.”

Many shopkeepers said that they understand the country is in need but believe donations shouldn’t be mandatory, as people surviving on small businesses are suffering.

They claim that the town representatives have made similar demands in the past and they set the amount too.

Meanwhile, shopowners also shared Wechat audio messages where a committee member claimed they are making a list of those who didn’t make a contribution and reflecting them as a group with no appreciation towards the country. Another member also suggested not to accept if the contribution was only Nu 100 or Nu 200.

The town representative, Tenzin Wangchuk, had also instructed the committee members to ask again for contributions from those who failed to contribute on the first day. He warned that he would deal with those who fail to donate even after explaining the objective.

Meanwhile, the town representative told Kuensel that he threatened in the Wechat group only to encourage people to cooperate. “We wouldn’t have done anything to them.”

He said the government didn’t instruct them to collect any contribution but it was an informal collection initiated after the town committee members approached him. “It was a good initiative to show our appreciation to the government. Even the villagers were contributing their share.”

Tenzin Wangchuk alleged that some shop owners closed their shops seeing the members coming to collect the donation. “I have asked the members to explain the objective clearly as it could also be an opportunity for them to serve the nation.”

He said that while the building owners were also asked to donate for the good cause, he claimed that the minimum amount to be collected was never set for the shopowners considering it as a donation from an individual. “We even collected Nu 100 from a few individuals.”

One of the committee members, Gyeltshen, said the donations were asked depending on the size of the shops. “We have collected even Nu 50 from some.”

There are more than 700 shops in Bajo town. As of April 8, the committee has collected about Nu 700,000.