Yangchen C Rinzin 

The government’s decision to disperse vendors from the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) with little or no preparation has affected hundreds of their families, the Opposition Party said in a letter to the government.

The party wrote to the Prime Minister on September 29 seeking clarification on its decision.

“With already many in distress due to the pandemic, the closure of CFM has impacted the lives and livelihood of hundreds of families,” the Opposition’s letter stated. “The decision has also affected the livelihood of the whole chain of farmers as producers, vendors as sellers, and consumer as buyers.”

“This impact has lead to an inflation of prices of vegetables on Thimphu residents.”

The Opposition Party asked the government if Covid-19 management was the sole reason for the closure.

The party has also asked how concerned the government is about the impact of its decision and if vegetable vendors would be placed back to CFM after the pandemic situation improves.

The party’s letter said that it had closely followed the CFM closure issue, met with the representatives of vegetable vendors and visited existing and proposed vegetable market places.

The Opposition stated that while they understand the decision was in the best interest to prevent and control of Covid-19, the CFM could have continued to operate within safety protocols. The Opposition suggested the vendors could operate on a rotational basis at 50 percent capacity and spread market days further.

While supporting the government’s initiative to install vegetable markets in various zones in Thimphu, the implementation should not be done at the inconvenience of vendors during such times, the Opposition Party wrote.

The party has called on the government to restore vegetable vendors to their allocated counters when the Covid-19 situation improves and that multi-level car parking was not built to operate as a vegetable market. 

They stated that the government was dispersing vendors to unsuitable and inhospitable locations.

Meanwhile, an official from Prime Minister’s Office has confirmed on receiving the letter but prime minister is yet to respond.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering, during the monthly meet the press session last week, said that the move to send vendors to the zones was to protect their own business interests.

Given the risks of transmitting Covid-19, the government had planned to open CFM keeping distance between vendors but it would not have abated risks of local transmission.

“Hence, the government decided to go along with Thimphu Thrompon’s plan of building mini vegetable market like the one in Chang Gidaphu,” he said.