Ugyen C Penjor

On Saturday, near Nobding, a group of workers from the Department of Roads are fixing potholes. They’re shaping the holes, cleaning them up, and getting them ready for repairs by adding bitumen.

Every morning, these workers arrive at the site with fresh energy. Their monthly pay got bumped up to Nu 12,000 from around Nu 6,500 after the pay raise. They kick off their workday as early as seven in the morning, keeping at it until four in the evening. They put in six days of work each week.

In November last year, the Ministry of Finance declared a pay increase for national workforce employees. Their new salaries range from Nu 12,000 to Nu 18,000, and this change took effect from October 1.

One of the workers is Sah Maya, 48. When she got her lump sum of the revised salary, which was about Nu 30,000, she managed to save Nu 20,000. Sah Maya expressed that the salary revision has now made it possible for her to save some money.

Sah Maya has been a part of the Department of Roads for the past 25 years, and her husband also works with DoR. She said: “We’ve relied on our jobs at the Department of Roads to provide for our kids and put food on the table. It used to be tough with low salaries to make ends meet.”

Sah Maya never takes days off, even on holidays. She looks for additional work at construction sites to support her family. Despite the increase in salary, she continues to work on holidays.

Sah Maya said: “The extra money now allows for more savings, but due to health concerns, most of our earnings still go towards medical checkups.”

Bir Maya, 46, has been working alongside the roads for 12 years. She hasn’t been able to save much because she has to use her salary to support her children’s education.

Bir Maya said that after the salary increase, she was able to set aside some money for savings, albeit a small amount. However, these savings are primarily used to cover her medical expenses.

All five workers present today said that falling ill was quite common due to the nature of their work.

Bir Maya said, “We usually visit the nearby Basic Health Unit when we’re sick, but we’re often referred to Wangdue hospital.I frequently suffer from back and muscle aches, which can be almost unbearable at times. But as soon as I feel better, I come back to work.”

Cheten Tshering from Trashiyangtse finds joy in his work as a Department of Roads employee. He is a single father with two sons who were previously school dropouts but now work alongside him at the Department of Roads.

“The increase in salary has motivated our entire family to work even harder, ensuring we have hearty meals on the table,” he said.

Cheten Tshering’s son, Bumpa, suffers from kidney disease and works as a store-incharge at the Department of Roads.

“Before the salary increase, it was tough to manage the expenses for my dialysis trips to Wangdue,” he said.

Bumpa needs dialysis twice a week, costing around Nu 1,000 per week in travel expenses. “Although my father still supports me, the salary revision has eased some of the burden on him.”