Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Seven regular vegetable vendors in Mongar town were happy that they got an approval to sell their vegetable and other products in the vegetable market shed for two days since January 13.

The dzongkhag had identified only three of the 15 regular vendors to sell the vegetable and farm produce during lockdown. Even after easing the lockdown the same team continued selling at the vegetable market shed.

The dzongkhag Covid-19 taskforce committee, in its unlocking notification, restricts operating vegetable shed.

This, according to vendors, was unjust as they did not get equal opportunities to operate even after the lockdown relaxation. “We’ve never been consulted or asked if we were interested to operate the business when others were allowed, yet we bore with it,” one of the vendors said.

Leptangmo, one of the permanent vendors who has been seeking permission to sell vegetables in the market shed since the relaxation of lockdown, said she lost four sacks of chilli, two sacks of onion, around 30 kg of beans as they got rotten during the lockdown.

Another vendor, Khandu, said that she got an opportunity to operate the stall in a group with two others during the last lockdown, she ran into loss of about Nu 50,000 as the villagers were allowed to sell their produces all of sudden unlocking and the credit is still due to the farmers.

“I thought we could at least make up a bit this time but I was not allowed,” she said.

Another vendor, Tashi, said it was a great relief that she got an approval to sell her products after a sack of chilies and around 20kg of broccoli were rotten after it’s been stored for three weeks.

She added that she was a lone bread earner in the family with three children and could not pay the house rent for last month.

A vendor, Rinzin, said he was not aware although he too was genuinely interested to operate the business during the lockdown given the opportunity. “We have no say if equal opportunity is given to all the vendors on rotational basis,” he said.

Dzongkhag officials said other vendors were excluded as they lacked capacity to cater vegetables. Moreover, district agriculture officials said RAMCO was responsible for identifying the selected vendors.

However, RAMCO officials denied saying they were not part of the taskforce.

Residents in Mongar said vendors charged high prices for vegetables due to monopoly. A civil servant said the dzongkhag supplied surplus vegetable produces to other dzongkhags and it was unfair when the local residents had to bear higher charges.

“Moreover, the de-suups on duty don’t allow you to hand pick vegetable from the display and you are forced to accept even if it’s rotten. If more vendor are there it is an advantage for us,” he said.