Luck, not money decides rice buyers in Sakteng

Shortage of rice compels shopkeeper to hold a lucky dip

Rinchen Khandu rushed to the Sanam Tshongkhang in Sakteng gewog around 8:10 yesterday morning. His friends told him the rice stock was limited and it could finish any time.

“I thought I would be the first one to reach the shop,” the 21-year-old said. “But when I reached, there were already some 40 people waiting in front of the door.”

He said that although the crowd was discouraging, he stayed back and prayed to at least manage a bag of rice.

The crowd in front of the farm shop grew bigger by the minute and when the shop opened at 9am, there were more than 180 people waiting to get a bag of rice.

Given the crowd waiting at the door, the farm shop’s salespersons decided to conduct a lucky dip to decide who gets the limited stock of rice bags. However, the two salespersons could not control the crowd and police had to manage the situation.

A lucky draw winner takes home a rice bag

Of the 75 bags (25Kg each) of rice, the people were given only 27 bags yesterday after the lucky dip. The remaining bags were saved for upcoming visitors.

One of the salespersons, Sonam Zangpo, said it is difficult to deal with people in the gewog. “They get physical when things like this happens,” he said. “There was rice shortage last time too and we had to call police since people broke the door.”

He said the shortage was caused by the on-going work on the road connecting the gewog. The road was blocked even for horses and cattle.

“We bought about three tonnes of rice, as the gewog received information that several programme would be held until next week and we expected many visitors,” he said.

Locals said that since the opening of Sanam Tshongkhang on February 5 this year, the people of the gewog have benefited. Rinchen Khandu said most of the commodities at the tshongkhang are cheaper than those sold in other local shops.

“Essential items like rice, oil, sugar, salt, milk powder, soap and other groceries are available at the tshongkhang,” he said. “A bag of 50Kg rice costs Nu 1,200 from Thrakthi, the nearest road point to the gewog. We have to pay Nu 400 extra for pony.”

A 50kg bag of rice costs Nu 1,400 at Sanam Tshongkhang. Rinchen Khandu, however, said it is difficult to get rice from the shop.

Other residents also said the farm shop only brings limited essential commodities, often resulting in similar commotion among villagers.

Phuntsho Choden, 77, who claimed that she was the first to arrive at the tshongkhang wasn’t lucky enough to get the rice yesterday.

“The rice stock at my home is almost finished,” she said. “I’ve seven members in my family and I’m not sure what to feed them.”

Another resident, Sangay Dorji, 64, said he came because he heard that there is limited stock of rice and since the road was closed.

“Luck did not favour me but I am not worried,” he said. “I keep stock at my house in case such situations arise.”

He said he needed the extra rice since it is almost time for them to move to the mountains with their yaks.

Sonam Zangpo said that rice is the most sold-out commodity at the shop. “In the beginning we brought just around four tonnes of rice but because of the demand we received from the community, we doubled our order,” he said.

Sanam Tshongkhang makes a minimum sale of Nu 12,000 every day when there is stock. The shop made more than Nu 1.1 million (M) since it opened.

Meanwhile, like the rest of the 153 people who gathered at the tshongkhang, Rinchen Khandu’s luck too did not favour him and had to return home without a bag of rice.

Younten Tshedup | Sakteng

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