Gewogs have not returned tobacco products

Yeshey Lhadon 

The Bhutan Duty Free Limited (BDFL) in Thimphu is bearing the brunt of angry or frustrated tobacco users in Dagana after the local government heads, gups, decided not to distribute tobacco products.

Officials at BDFL told Kuensel that they are flooded with calls from desperate or angry tobacco consumers, some begging and some threatening of blaming them for the domestic violence that could happen over tobacco.

“We don’t understand why Dagana people were making desperate calls when their gups claimed that there are no tobacco users in their gewogs,” said an official. The gewog have not returned the consignment dispatched for the people. BDFL will find out what happened to the tobacco. “Local leaders should return the tobacco products if they didn’t distribute it,” said a BDFL staff member.

BDFL supplied tobacco products as per the demand letter from respective dzongkhags, gewogs or organizations. The official said that if the main reason for not distributing the tobacco in Dagana was because of insufficient quantity, the local leaders could have put up  requisition letter after collecting a list of tobacco consumers. Paro Dzongkhag received tobacco for the fourth time so far.

The corporation didn’t have enough stock, but sent whatever they had to the dzongkhags.  “We have stocked up the tobacco products and we would send it to the consumers if their local leaders take an initiative.”

Meanwhile, tobacco consumers in Dagana are suspecting if the local leaders are giving their share to illicit tobacco sellers since they received none. An anguished smoker from Drukjegang tried smoking tealeaves. “We are suffering. I called up the duty-free staff and requested them to send me a bundle of bidi through a friend who will be visiting Dagana soon.”

Some said they paid Nu 1,000 for a packet cigarette which would have cost them Nu 180 if bought from the duty-free outlet. “The prices of tobacco are ridiculously high but we can’t help consuming it,” said a consumer.

Dzongkhag officials said they had not received any official complaints from the tobacco users so far. The dealing official said that BDFL sent tobacco products although the dzongkhag didn’t ask for tobacco. He said, “There was a shortage in the number of products supplied by BDFL when we checked the list they sent us. So, we couldn’t supply it immediately.”

BDFL sent 180 packets of cigarettes, 129 packets of chewing tobacco (Baba) and 258 packets of Bidi to Dagana. Nine packets of baba and 58 packets of Bidis went missing.

The distribution guideline highlighted that the tobacco should be only delivered to chronic consumers and to collect a copy of the citizenship identity card (CID) from the buyers. “There has been no study conducted to determine who the chronic users are. It made the distribution of tobacco difficult,” said the dealing official.

The gups didn’t want to entertain one or two complaints they received from tobacco consumers as the majority of the citizens supported their decision.

Tsendagang Gup, Bal Bahadur Rana, said people were reluctant to give the copy of their CID card. “People want tobacco but they are too scared that they will be traced and arrested in future if they share their identity card.”

Goshi gup, Tandin, who once delivered tobacco at the consumers’ doorstep said that people were still unhappy. He doesn’t want to distribute it next time. He said, “It’s not gup’s responsibility to distribute tobacco products. It’s difficult to be the middle man.” He suggested BDFL to open a tobacco outlet in the dzongkhag.

Tashiding gup, Namgay Peldon also distributed tobacco to her people. However, she couldn’t clarify the consumers if the gewog will receive tobacco products again.