The footpath along the Methidrang stream leading towards the vegetable market in Trashigang remains covered with the season’s fresh produce.

Farmers from Ramjar and Gongthung flock the footpath with their local vegetables. The quickest vendor gets to go home early. The task is however, not easy.

Under the searing heat and dusty street, farmers struggle to maintain the freshness of the vegetables. Most of the leftovers are seen dumped into the stream behind.

Although the ground floor of the weekend vegetable market shed has been designated for local products, the facility remains unused. Farmers prefer selling their produce along the footpath.

This has affected the business of vegetable vendors at the market. “Since they sell their products right at the entrance, we hardly get any customers here,” said one of the vendors. “We are not against them selling locally grown vegetables. But if they sell from the shed below, it would allow customers to visit our stalls too.”

There are currently eight vendors selling both locally grown and imported vegetables and fruits from India. “Like the rest of the business operators in the town, we are also liable to pay taxes. Sometimes it is difficult to even make Nu 50 a day because we don’t get any customers,” said another vendor at the market.

The vendors claimed that compared to the past, their business has gone down because of lack of customers. “Vendors selling local produce refuse to sell from the shed but are seen sleeping and cooking at the shed,” a vendor said. “Apart from their locally produced vegetables, they are seen selling onions and tomatoes that are brought from India. We are against this practice.”

One of the vendors who sell along the footpath, Dorji, from Ramjar said that since no customer comes to the vegetable sheds, they had to shift their location. “We are not the ones who started this trend. This practice was there before we came here,” said the 84-year-old. “We sell here because the business is fairly good outside the shed.”

Another vendor from Gongthung, Pema Yangzom, said that it was difficult to sell the vegetables when they were at the shed. “We come all the way from our village in the hope to make some money. When people don’t show up at the shed, most vegetables get spoiled. We cannot afford to throw mounds of chilies every second day.”

The engineer with the municipal office said that although selling of vegetables along the footpath is not legal, people are seen doing the business. “We have a fine system in place but we do not want to penalise them. Instead we want to change their mindset, for which we are giving them awareness on keeping the surrounding clean and safety measures along the roadside,” she said.

He said that BAFRA officials along with thromde thuemi conduct routine monitoring. “It is not legal but at the same time we have to also encourage local products.”

Thromde thuemi, Thinley Namgay, said that despite several warnings, people are not willing to sell from the shed. “I have personally requested them, sometimes even warned that they would be fined but it has not worked,” he said. “I will write to the gewogs soon to sensitise farmers on not selling produces along the roadside in the town.”

He said that since there is no support from the municipal office in managing such cases, it is challenging for him to handle it alone. “Trashigang throm is not a full-fledged thromde. The municipal office has to support us in addressing issues like this,” he said. “There is a committee who looks after such cases but most of the time it is just me.”

The thromde engineer said that the office is currently focusing more into developmental activities and such cases are mostly looked after by the thromde thuemi.

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang