Sherab Lhamo

Even after years, the residents of Nyoenpaling Chiwog in Phuntshopelri Gewog, Samtse, are still waiting for a bridge to be constructed over the Pugli River.

Due to restrictions at the Pugli checkpoint, the residents of Nyoenpaling, commonly known as Pugli, are unable to commute through the checkpoint. As a result, they have to resort to crossing the river, which poses life-threatening risks, especially during the monsoon season, for the approximately 650 residents.

Airaj, a resident, expressed that it would be much more convenient for the people if their vehicles were allowed to use the Pugli Checkpoint Road. However, Phuntshopelri Gup Robat Lepcha clarified that the local government lacks the authority to make such decisions as the checkpoint falls under the jurisdiction of the Indian government.

Even school buses are compelled to drive through the river since Pugli residents are not permitted to cross the checkpoint, which is exclusively designated for vehicles transporting goods.

The residents face significant challenges during medical emergencies as they must travel to Gomtu Hospital or Birpara Town in India. Airaj explained, “During the monsoon season, we have to wait until the water level subsides.”

Gomtu is a mere 20-minute drive from Pugli, but it requires crossing into India.

“When the buses become stranded in the river, it is the students who suffer,” one resident pointed out.

Prem Bdr Yakha, the chiwog representative, stated, “The reason the Indian police may not be allowing our light vehicles is possibly because we do not allow Indian light vehicles through this checkpoint.”

However, there are plans in place to construct a bridge soon, connecting Pugli and Gomtu.