Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

After three months of waiting, Norbu Wangmo was able to get her belongings to Phuentsholing from Jaigaon yesterday.

She was among hundreds of Bhutanese who left Jaigaon in the wake of the pandemic and entered Phuentsholing for safety—without bringing her belongings.

“I am very happy,” she said.

With the permission to bring the belongings, many are now waiting for their turn.

Phuentsholing Thromde has started to register the names of those who want to collect their items. However, they are not allowed to go to Jaigaon. They have to manage someone across the border to load up and send to the customs port.

After the loaded vehicles reach the port, the belongings are transshipped to a Bhutan registered vehicle.

The process is expensive, but there is no other option, many said.

Nar Bahadur Rai, who operated a game parlour in Phuentsholing has been living in the shop for the past three months.

“I did not get the house rent waiver,” he said, adding his shop is also closed due to the pandemic.

“I will have to store the items in the store.”

Nar Bahadur Rai paid four months’ rent amounting to Nu 24,000 to the house owner in Jaigaon.

The Bolero Pickup that delivered his things from Jaigaon until the port cost him Nu 2,000. It cost him another Nu 2,000 to deliver them at his store from the port. Depending on the quantity of the load and distance, some are even charged up to Nu 5,000.

There is also the labour cost for loading and unloading at the port. It ranges from Nu 1,200 to Nu 2,000 per Bolero Pickup.

A private employee, Tashi Dorji paid Nu 2,000 to bring his things until the customs port, Nu 1,800 for loading onto a Bhutanese vehicle, and another Nu 1,200 to reach them at his house yesterday.

“I also paid Nu 12,400 for rent in Jaigaon,” he said.

Many are concerned about damages to their belongings and losing them in the process. However, they are also aware that they were not allowed to go to Jaigaon for their safety.

A resident Ugyen Dorji said, “It is expensive. Not everyone will have savings.”

“Many have to pay the house rents. Low-income people will be affected.”

He said, sending a Bhutanese vehicle straight to Jaigaon with one person was a better option.

Meanwhile, many are also rushing to the thromde office to register.

Norbu Wangmo, who lives with her two children in a temporary shelter at Toorsa said, “There is no need to rush. It’ll take time, but eventually, we’ll get our belongings home.”