Pema Wangchuk lost his job when the government banned all sporting events in March. His roommate managed their rent for the month. Last week when it was time to pay the rent, he was worried. The football referee had no money.
On the last day of the month on Thursday, he received a message on his phone. He was one of the 13,006 recipients of the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu for three months. “It came as a lifeline,” said Pema Wangchuk.
In less than 30 minutes, the 25-year-old from Lunyi gewog, Paro paid off the rent for two months. He had received much more than he expected from the Kidu.
For Bhumika Monger of Lhamoidzingkha, the needs were much more urgent. When she received the relief kidu of Nu 12,000, she headed to the market and brought some vegetables and some essential for the family.
Since the borders closed, Bhumika has been living with her husband and daughter at his brother’s place in Phuentsholing. Eight of them squeeze in a two-bedroom apartment at Chumithang.
“I couldn’t get a temporary job since all the offices are closed,” the 33-year-old said. Bhumika has been helping her seven-year-old daughter with her lessons broadcast on television.
She owes the landlord in Jaigaon, where her family still has a rented apartment and said that the landlord has been after the rent for two months.
Bhumika was a dispatcher at one of the customs clearing agents and earned a monthly salary of Nu 10,500. With the job gone after the border closed, she was out of job suddenly. Her family solely depended on her husband’s income from working at a factory in Pasakha.
“Our relatives are kind and go out of their way to make us feel at home but how long can we rely on them,” she said.
Sangay Choden, who is visually impaired was on the verge of giving up. She had decided to return home to Lauri, Samdrupjongkhar. She was a housekeeper at the Namseling Boutique hotel in Thimphu, but was sent on unpaid leave since April 1. She had completed class 8 from the Muenseling Institute, a school for the blind in Khaling.
She has been looking after her 24-year-old elder sister, who is a kidney patient, and their mother. Every three days, her sister has to visit the national referral hospital for treatment, and each visit costs her Nu 150 in taxi fare.
“The little that I could save from my 15 months on the job was exhausting. So we thought it would be best for me to return home and do something productive,” the 21-year-old said.
Sangay applied for the kidu hoping to be able to pay rent of Nu 4,500 on time.
“Now I can remain here and look after them without worry,” she said. “It’s such a relief.”
The Relief Kidu recipients said that they remained confined at home without work or money, hoping each day that everything would return to normal the next day.
Bhumika Monger said while the future ahead is still bleak in terms of getting a job, she felt reassured with the relief kidu. “One thing has become clear to me that no matter how worse the situation turns out to be, I can always count on His Majesty’s compassion.”
Bhumika’s friends, who are in a similar situation, have also received the relief kidu.
Of the 18,880 applications that were assessed, 13,006 were identified as beneficiaries. Others are under further review.
The beneficiaries assessed for the full amount get Nu 12,000, and others get a partial amount Nu 8,000. There were 9,716 recipients of the full amount. Additionally, each child of the affected family would get Nu 800 a month.
Those employees of affected businesses who have been laid off, or placed on unpaid leave or reduced pay were assessed for the full amount. Self-employed individuals in the tourism sector who have lost their earnings, and Bhutanese workers who have returned home from abroad because of the pandemic and have no other sources of income are also assessed for the relief kidu.
After 26 years of service, Tashi Norbu retired as a senior sonographer to join a private clinic. When the borders closed as precaution to Covid-19, Indian patients stopped coming to the private diagnostic centre where he worked in Phuentsholing. He was once again unemployed.
He is the sole bread earner for his wife and his daughter, who had graduated out of the university recently. His monthly pension of Nu 5,000 fell short of meeting their necessary expenses. His rent alone is Nu 10,000.
But luckily, his landlord waived off half the monthly rent for three months.
Tashi, 55, from Pemagatshel had volunteered and enlisted with the health ministry as reserve frontline responder should the situation escalate.
“Whatever I do will not be able to repay the debt I owe my King, and the country for the free education, healthcare and now the relief kidu during this most difficult time of my life,” he said.
“Every day, I pray for the good health and long life our King for all that our King has done and continues to do,” he said. “Because of him, every night I can look forward to the next morning.”