Big businesses take the lead

Yangchen C Rinzin

If small is beautiful, the Gomtu community is living up to the phrase.

Gomtu is a small town that has remained almost isolated after Bhutan’s border was sealed on March 23. Located almost 60km from Phuentsholing and Samtse, there is no internal route to travel from Gomtu to Samtse.

In the face of such a situation, the people decided to do something together. They got together to come up with immediate and future plans.

There is a Gomtu Covid-19 Task Force.

Lhaki Cement, Jigme Mining, Penden Cement, Bhutan Polymer, and small business entities are the members of the task force. Included in the team are also the Royal Bhutan Police and local government officials.

Vice chairman of Lhaki Cement, Sonam Tobgay Dorji, said that task force was formed to assist the government prepare for the case scenario.


What’s being done?

First of all, the companies have decided not to layoff their employees. Instead, some of the employees are deployed with police and DeSuups to guard the porous border.

“This is the time when they need us and we should be there for them,” Sonam Tobgay Dorji said. “The government has to look after entire country so, we can atleast take care of our own employee.”

Jigme mining’s joint managing director, Ugyen Kezang, said that this initiative was to sustain and survive in the worst-case scenario. “We’re mainly looking to ensure that food supply continues. Logistics will be arranged, roads maintained, and the quarantine centres taken care of. Individuals and companies have begun donating to the fund.”

Employees too have volunteered to donate a day’s salary.  

The fund has hit Nu 0.9M today.

The task force has also prepared the contingency plan. Machines have been deployed at two internal roads to see the possibility of using during case scenario. 

Ugyen Kezang said that task force would look after the quarantine centres at Penden Cement and a Gomtu school. Internet services and meals at the centre are provided from the fund.

There is also a separate kitchen that caters for quarantine centre.

The task force has requested Food Corporation of Bhutan to supply of essential items directly to Gomtu.

“The protocol today is that supplies are first sent to Samtse and then we have to get them from there,” Ugyen Kezang said. “We want to ensure enough supplies stocks in case of a lockdown.”

Shopkeepers are also encouraged to stock the supplies.

The members of the task force have supplied hand-washing facilities and sanitisers.

Meanwhile, Jigme Mining donated Nu 5M to the Covid-19 Relief Fund and  four oxygen concentrators to Samtse hospital.  Three ventilators the company purchased to be donated  is stuck at Jaigaon, India after the lockdown.

Jigme Mining and Lhaki Cement also donated Nu 7.5M to His Majesty’s Kidu Fund.