Twenty-nine tenants at the National Pension and Provident Fund (NPPF) colony in Phuentsholing are occupying the flats unlawfully. Failing to vacate the flats in December 2017, the case has been forwarded to the court.

NPPF’s regional head in Phuentsholing, Tshering Gyeltshen said these tenants are not active provident fund contributors. Most of the tenants are not working in any government agencies and are marked as “private.” The lot also has pensioners, widows, and another group identified under sublet tenants, which means the registered and rightful tenants have given it to others.

Initially, there were 37 tenants. The cases of 30 were forwarded to the court but one among them surrendered before the first court hearing, Tshering Gyeltshen said.

In October 2016, NPPF officials had a consultation meeting with the tenants and had given a year (2017) to vacate the flats. Tenants had agreed to an undertaking to vacate by December 2017.

“The matter has been put up at the court based on this undertaking,” the regional head said.

The matter was forwarded to the court by the Phuentsholing thromde dispute settlement.

There are 37 buildings at the NPPF colony in Phuentsholing with 297 residential units.

Tshering Gyeltshen said that most of the “unlawful tenants” have told NPPF officials that it was difficult to find houses in Phuentsholing.

“Some even say that they are emotionally attached having lived there for many years and didn’t want to leave,” he said, adding that there were also some tenants who lived more outside Phuentsholing.

One private tenant, Wangchuk Namgay said that it was a case of irony.

“While people living across the border would be given houses inside, we are being chased away,” he said. “We didn’t get to register for the affordable housing because we are here.”

Wangchuk Namgay has been living for nine years at the NPPF colony with his family. Getting an affordable house in Phuentsholing would be difficult due to high rents, he said and that houses across the border would be the last resort.

He said they have requested the court to extend the time until this December for the academic session to end since there are families with school going children.

In one house, Kuensel met with the registered tenant’s wife, who is an active pension member. Her husband worked in a corporation but retired in 2006. They are living in the same quarter for 20 years now.

“We applied to shift the tenancy in my name but they said it is not possible,” she said, requesting anonymity. “But finding a house is a difficult task.”

Sangay Tshering, another private tenant said he couldn’t find a house to move into.

“Our request is to get some extension,” he said, adding that it was difficult to get a house in Phuentsholing.

Sangay Tshering also said that the government was providing housing to some and chasing others.

Kuensel also met widows in the colony. The apartments were registered in their husbands’ names and they continued living there after their husbands expired.

Chimi Wangmo, 70, stays alone and doesn’t work. She also does not have children to support.

“I sell my old kiras, tegos, and other stuff for a living,” she said. “I have been managing so far.”

Originally from Paro, she said she is also an asthma patient. She doesn’t remember which year her husband died and the time they got into the apartment.

“NPPF has given us time and we are not in the court unlike others,” she said. “It would be good if they could give us another few years.”

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing