Decongesting CFM was in vendors’ interest 

Yeshey Lhadon

Not moving out of the Centenary Farmers’ Market to the zones, vendors could harm their own interests as the thromde would tender out the market sheds in the zones adding more than 400 additional vendors in the city.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering, during the monthly meet the press session yesterday, said that the move to send vendors to the zones was to protect their own business interests.

Given the risks of transmitting Covid-19, the government had planned to open CFM keeping distance between vendors but it would not have abated risks of local transmission.

“Hence, the government decided to go along with Thimphu Thrompon’s plan of building mini vegetable market like the one in Chang Gidaphu,” he said.

“People asked me to let them sell their vegetables on the streets but I told Thrompon to use the car park temporarily since its occupancy is less than 10 percent,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that he requested Thrompon to rent out space at the same rate and allocate the same space to that of the CFM if not bigger.

He said, “The present CFM should serve as a vegetable centre for that zone for about 3,000 residents in that area.”

Those vendors who came to see the Prime Minister agreed to go with Thrompon’s idea of moving to the zones.

“If it is in the larger interest of the nation, it doesn’t matter if we are hurting a few individuals,” said Lyonchhen.

He said that there were thousands of vegetable vendors waiting for an opportunity to do business at CFM.

“Thrompon wanted to do an open bid to rent out 400 vegetable spaces being constructed in the zones but I requested him to give the first opportunity to 496 vendors of CFM,” Lyonchhen said.

If the vendors still stay at the CFM, the prime minister said that they will have only themselves to blame in case their business suffers after thromde rents out the 400 units to new vegetable vendors.

“Now it’s all up to them whether they want to go and occupy the spots at zones and different locations or they want to wait until CFM formally opens,” Lyonchhen said.

Thimphu Thromde has started constructing mini vegetable market at Babesa, Lungtenphug, Motithang, Pamtsho and Taba. Each market will be an independent unit whereby the consumers will be able to purchase all the essential goods starting from vegetables, livestock products, meat, incense sticks in their zones.

The government was criticised of teaming up with Thimphu Thrompon and favouring multi-level car parking (MLCP) operators to remove the vendors from Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) and shift to the MLCPs.

Lyonchhen said: “Wherever you park your cars if you have to pay the parking fee, Thimphu Thromde has a contract with the same company. Thimphu Thromde has the contract so why would they benefit more if the car is parked at MLCP because the contract is with them anyway?”

Lyonchhen said that it is Nu 15 for half an hour along the Norzin Lam and Nu 10 at MLCP. The car park company will earn more if people park their car along Norzin Lam.

Lyonchhen said that the government was falsely accused of extending the contract period of MLCP from 22 years to 30 years. “We shot down the request,” he said.

Lyonchhen said that the vegetable markets in the zones will help reduce fuel cost, save time,  and also help the environment.

Lyonchhen said that the CFM and JDWNRH were the two most risky areas in Thimphu. Crowd controlling was even more challenging at these places. Though JDWNRH can’t be closed like CFM, they follow stringent protocols.

He said: “If we open CFM like on usual days, it’ll be very risky.”

Meanwhile, it is almost two months for the regular vendors of CFM without any business since the announcement of the nationwide lockdown. Today would mark two weeks since the MLCPs were given to vendors to operate their business.

There were no vegetable vendors at MLCP II, near the Lungtenzampa fuel depot, whereas there were only two vendors at the basement of MLCP I, located near Hongkong Market.

A livestock product vendor at MLCP I earned Nu 20,000 a day selling dry yak meat, and dairy products. He said that it has been almost a week since he brought his products there.

Another vendor, Kache, sold cereal products from Paro at MLCP I. She said that it sold better at Thimphu than in Paro.

She said, “I think the business is not bad here at MLCP I. If customers come here too, it would be just the same.” Customers visited MLCP I  frequently looking for vegetable vendors.

A vegetable vendor, Kinzang Choden, said that she wanted to bring the vegetables two days ago. She could not remove the vegetable trays and plastic carry bags from CFM counters because of the ongoing relocation issue.  

Kinzang was ready to embrace the change and take risks rather than staying idle for days.

“I think business will pick up once we’re set up here,” she said.

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