FHC: Street hawkers, who were recently banned, can now do business in the open.

Economic affairs minister Norbu Wangchuk inaugurated the Food Hawking Centre opposite Changlingmithang Stadium.

With a centre now in place, street hawkers should make sure that they sell hygienic and safe food and maintain their own waste.

The government is happy to lift the ban and allow the street hawkers to continue doing their business, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said.

“Many have to support your families as the sole bread earner of the family. It is a respectable business as well,” Lyonpo said. “By looking into such matters, we had a discussion with the organizations involved and decided to designate an area.”

The vendors must make sure that they abide by the guidelines and ensure that hygiene, food safety and waste are always regulated. Hawkers must also wear safety masks, hat and apron while on the business.

The vendors can operate their business from 7pm to 11:30pm during non-party days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday), and from 7pm to 1:30am during party days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday).

“The area was identified so that the concentrated place could not only ensure their safety by the constant regulation from the police but also regulate the youth that frequent there,” Lyonpo said. “It would be easier to monitor and regulate if the hawkers are in one place instead of putting up shop on any road side. It would also be easier to ensure that no tobacco or alcohol products are sold.”

The tshogpa of the group, Kado, 47, said when they were banned from the streets, most of them had a tough time making their ends meet.

“We formed a group after the ban and requested the relevant officials to lift the ban. Many of us come from low-income families and there is no way to support our families other than this business,” he said. “The decision by the government is timely and we are happy for their support.”

Kado has two school-going children and he is sole earner of the family.

Pema Zangmo, 33, a mother of three, said she is happy that she can still support her children through her business. Pema Zangmo travels all the way from Dechencholing to sell thukpa, momo, puri and tea everyday. She has been doing this for the last five years.

“The business was more profitable when I started. But now that the number of vendors has increased, competition is tough,” she said. “This is the only way we can survive where everything becomes expensive by the day.”

To express their appreciation, the street hawkers offered officials and onlookers some hot and delicious thukpa, steaming momo, puri, tea and suja.

Thinley Zangmo