Housing: It is blistering hot in Chinese Lane. The narrow lane that divides Phuentsholing and Jaigaon has a deserted look. It is 2:30pm.
A woman in brown kira appears from one of the many alleys. She works in town with a private company. It has been 15 years she has been living in Deokota Tol, located at the back of Jaigaon side of Chinese Lane.
“We have our own house,” she said. There are many like her in Chinese Lane area who have constructed houses and settled.
Chinese Lane is one place in Jaigaon where hundreds of Bhutanese families have rented house. The rent is cheap and this attracts many low-income people.
From Chinese Lane to Bau Bazaar and Manglabarey, there are more than 9,500 Bhutanese living across the border today. This accounts for about half the population of Phuentsholing, which a total of 20,537.
Locals say this could give rise to many problems in the future. The main reason why so many Bhutanese people are living in Jaigaon is because of limited commercial space in the core town area, which are occupied by non-Bhutanese operating fronting businesses.
Non-Bhutanese businessmen operating businesses with Bhutanese licences occupy most of the building apartments meant for residential purposes. Low-income group eventually has to move somewhere they can afford.
The town’s business community representative, Phuntsho Wangdi said, vacant spaces are also used to construct haphazard structures with plastic and tin to stock grocery items, cement, hardware, and even furniture.
“Increasing number of Bhutanese people living in Jaigaon is economically not viable. It is also not safe for them,” said Phuntsho Wangdi.
House rents in Phuentsholing have been increasing rapidly because of limited commercial space.
A couple that runs a restaurant and bar in the core area said their rent was increased unreasonably. The owner has increased the rent by more than 50 percent within six months.
“We had no other option than to pay and stay,” said the couple. “Where is the rule, where is Tenancy Act?”
During Lyonchoen’s visit earlier this year, the business community in Phuentsholing raised this issue and submitted some recommendations.
It was recommended that Amochhu Land Reclamation Project be expedited. Dismantling the single-storey government quarters to upgrade was another recommendation.
Lyonchoen asked thromde to identify locations and to submit the findings for construction to the cabinet for review and approval.
However, nothing has happened to the reclamation project, said Phuntsho Wangdi.
Phuentsholing Thrompon Tsheten Dorji said thromde has identified the locations and submitted the findings to the National Housing and Development Corporation (NHDC).
NHDC officials in Phuentsholing said the new buildings will have 24 units in total. Construction will start in September.
NHDC also conducted the Housing Need Survey (HNS) in December 2014. It was found that income of more than 9,500 Bhutanese living in Jaigaon range between Nu 5,000 and Nu 10,000, followed by 23 percent who earn less than Nu 5,000 in a month. About 17 percent earn between Nu 10,000 and Nu 20,000. Only one percent earns more than Nu 20,000.
Bhutanese living across the border said that they are not able to find affordable houses in Phuentsholing.
Where they live currently, robbery and sexual harassment are the biggest issues.
Dawa Norbu, a private employee, said his wife lost a handbag and gold earrings from their window. Dawa’s salary is Nu 8,900. He pays INR 4,500 rent.
With most of the Bhutanese paying in INR, locals say that this lead to INR outflow, affecting the economy.
Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing