Power cut leaves Torsa residents anxious

Studies for about 112 students living in the makeshift huts along the embankment have been affected 

Thromde: With electricity connection discontinued for more than 50 illegal makeshift houses along the Torsa embankment in Phuentsholing early this month, residents are worried that their school-going children would be the most affected with their final examinations just a few months away.

About 52 families with 112-school going children have been affected by the thromde’s decision.

One of the affected is Nidham Dema, a mother of six out of which two are in school.

“My husband is a security guard at the PHPA office,” she said. Getting her home connected with electricity is all she expects from the municipality today.

Another affected resident is 40-year-old Tobgay, a driver with Bhutan Engineering Construction Private Limited (BECPL). After electricity supply was stopped, he tried looking for an affordable house.

“I am using kerosene stove to cook food,” he said. Tobgay has two school-going children.

More than 90 percent of these settlers are from the low-income group. Phuentsholing’s age old problem of housing shortage compounded by high rents of available houses have pushed those like Nidham and Tobgay to settle illegally along the embankment.

There are about four locations where people have settled with Bangay bazaar being the most prominent. This area has close to 20 makeshift huts.

Choki Lhamo, 30, is from Phuentsholing gewog’s Petokoma village situated below Darjaygaon village. Although her village is about half an hour walk from Bangay bazaar, she has been living in this bazaar for business. “Thromde cut off the power suddenly,” she said in despair.

Like Choki Lhamo, all other settlers are unhappy with the thromde’s adhoc decision. They claimed that the thromde office did not even notify them.

Other three areas where people have settled illegally are near the Karma Feed factory, near the BECPL and the Youth Development Fund centre.

A group representing the affected residents visited the thromde office yesterday. However, they could not meet the thrompon, as he was in a meeting.

One of the residents, Tshewang Dorji, 68, said the people wanted to know the reason.

“It is important to notify us,” he said. “We are worried about our children’s studies.”

Tshewang Dorji from Mongar has lived near the Karma Feed area along the embankment for 13 years now. He said he sells scraps and supports a family of five, out of which three are students.

Although they know it was illegal to settle, people are expecting the municipality would address this problem soon. If not, they would appeal to higher authorities, they said.

Meanwhile, the thromde’s decision comes after the September fire incident, which raged 12 makeshift houses to ashes, killing two children. Short circuit was suspected as the cause of the fire.

Phuentsholing thrompon Tsheten Dorji said the thromde had to discontinue power supply to prevent future mishaps like last month’s fire.

“We have given them notices to vacate,” the thrompon said reminding that the settlement is illegal. “We have even asked them to dismantle but they refused.”

Thromde will make a presentation on Local Area Plan (LAP) later this month. Should the plan get approved, these illegal settlements have to be dismantled.

Today, residents of Torsa area say that the main cause of last month’s fire must have been butter lamps left carelessly. Meanwhile, the mother who lost her child and nephew to that fire has returned to her village in Mongar.

Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing

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