The thromde cut their electricity connections in February

Housing: With no electricity for close to two months, more than 20 families that had illegally settled along the Amochhu embankments in Phuentsholing have left their makeshift houses to settle elsewhere.

Despite the Phuentsholing thromde repeatedly notifying the illegal settlers to leave, more than 45 families had resided illegally occupying government land.

The thromde disconnected their electricity connections in February.

However, more than half of the makeshift houses are still there along the embankment.

Among them is Nakchu, 54, who is still hopeful that he might get approval to stay.

“I have a son who goes to school,” he said. “Otherwise, there is no problem in leaving this place.”

Nakchu is originally from Gakidling in Haa. He has been living on the Amochhu embankment for about 10 years, he said.

Without electricity, Nakchu said the only problem he faces is when his son wants to study during the night and he cannot provide light. He said the heat and mosquitoes also become unbearable.

Nakchu said that he purchased two torches and used them alternatively by the day. He charges the torches wherever he can find an electric socket.

A Doyap from Buka-Tading, Samten Pema, has also emptied her shop fearing the thromde will ask them to vacate.

“I heard from friends that they would dismantle the houses,” she said.

Samten Pema and her husband, who is a driver, have four children who study in Phuentsholing. More than ten years ago, the couple moved to Phuentsholing for their children’s education, she said, explaining there was no school in her village then.

Mindu Gyem, 40, is also not happy about her electricity being disconnected.

“We are using batteries to light the house,” she said, adding that the batteries do not last for more than two hours.

However, Mindu Gyem is hopeful that the thromde will provide them with electricity because the area her family has occupied is private land. She has been paying Nu 2,000 every month as rent to the landowner.

Mindu Gyem, who is also from Gakidling, Haa and her husband, a driver by profession, have two sons studying in school in Phuentsholing.

The illegal settlement is thickest at Bangay Bazaar. About seven families have left Bangay Bazaar for good.

However, some still remain.

Chezom, 30, is confused. Her husband is also unemployed.

“Renting a house across the border is a likely option,” she said. “But that is also expensive.”

Chezom is originally from Kengkhar in Mongar. She has three children and two go to school.

Although illegally settled, most of the people Kuensel talked with said they could live without electricity but that their main concern was that their children’s education would be affected.

Most of the families along the embankments depend on only one bread earner. Drivers, security guards, and workshop foreman are some of the common professions among the residents. Their monthly incomes ranged from Nu 5,000 to Nu 7,000.

The thromde is planning to follow up on the matter, an official said. But electricity will not be provided, it was confirmed.

Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing