Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing

Although people were able to buy groceries yesterday, many in Phuentsholing were left frustrated, as they ran out of vegetables and didn’t know where to buy from.

The hotline, 5555, supposed to help people during emergencies, didn’t help, as many couldn’t connect to the line. Many took to social media to share their frustrations.

A resident of Kabreytar, Chencho Dema said she got a number of a vegetable shop, Green Hands, which also delivered vegetables on orders placed online.

“I called Green Hands several times,” she said. “But they did not have permission from the authorities.” She said she was worried that the vegetables she had would exhaust soon.

Sangay Choden, another Phuentsholing resident said she had no idea how to get vegetables. “The ones I have at home will not last more than two to three days,” she said.

“Authorities should allow shops like Green Hands, which had online delivery experience and knew the locations already. I was told the agriculture ministry will arrange vegetables,” she said.

An official from Green Hands, Kinzang said he received more than 100 calls yesterday enquiring about vegetables. However, Green Hands is yet to get the go-ahead from relevant authorities to start selling or delivering vegetables.

“I have been following with the trade office. They said they will notify me,” he said.

While Green Hands has not received any formal permission to open shop, which is located at Kabreytar, his numbers are being shared as a vegetable supplier on Facebook. Many people Kuensel talked to said DeSuups gave them the Green Hands’ numbers.

Kinzang said that those attending to the hotline provided people his number.  “I redirected them to call the hotline,” he said.

Another resident, Namgay Wangchuk said he called the hotline on the first day of the lockdown on August 11. “They said they will talk to higher authorities and get back, which they never did,” he said.  “Yesterday I called again but was unable to connect.”

Namgay Wangchuk, however, was able to manage a few kgs of vegetables yesterday from his regular supplier, which he said was not sufficient. DeSuups had given him another contact number but his calls and messages went unanswered.

“Our concerned authorities here seem to be unprepared,” he said, adding that they were also allowing one person from the family to do shopping.

“It doesn’t look like a lockdown. There were many people in the town.”

Residents said that authorities in Phuentsholing should have been better prepared and coordinated. Talks of a possible lockdown were there for a longtime, said one. “Arrangements for essentials should have been readied in advance,” he said adding that people will stay home if they have essentials.

Meanwhile, despite the news of the positive case of a 25-year-old man, many people were seen in the town yesterday, who had come to buy rations.

As per the modalities for purchase of essential items, people have to register over the phone with the hotline (5555) from 9am to 5pm. A regulated access to designated retail outlets based on zones was to facilitate one registered member of a household twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday) to go out.

Designated retail outlets in all zones were supposed to open from 10am to 5pm. Individuals visiting retail outlets must complete shopping within 30 minutes and can buy only “reasonable quantities.” The number of individuals permitted to visit a designated retail outlet at the same time shall be strictly regulated to ensure compliance with Covid-19 health advisories and protocols.

The Food Corporation of Bhutan was supposed to open outlets for residents of the temporary settlement at Toorsa and Toorsa Tar twice a week (Wednesday and Saturday) from 10am to 5pm.

The modality specified the agriculture ministry to supply vegetables. Authorised dealers will also home-deliver refilled LPG on Wednesday and Saturday. However, many residents are not able to buy vegetables. Kuensel couldn’t verify with authorities if all these plans are in place.

Meanwhile, about 33 retail shops have been identified to cater essential and grocery items to people of 12 places under the Local Area Plan (LAP) in Phuentsholing.

The core town (and nearby areas) has the highest population of 1,7465 people and 15 shops have been identified to cater to these people. The core town has 1,937 households.

Some of the stores in the core town include Tashi Commercial departmental store, Zimdra Impex, Tamshing Enterprise, and JPLP among others