Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

All their neighbours have moved away. The last few who held on dismantled their homes and left the town two months ago.

Dil Kumar Das and his family were the last to permanently leave Manglabari town in Mendrelgang on September 26.

Dil Kumar’s father, Run Bdr Das, hasn’t known any other town in seven decades. He raised his children in Mendrelgang town. When his wife passed away six years ago, he vowed to die peacefully in the house he shared with her for many decades.

This, his last wish, alas, did not come true. Two years ago, the dzongkhag administration instructed the shopkeepers to dismantle the structures. Gradually, the town, which once was the centre of trade for the three gewogs of Tsirang and Drujeygang in Dagana dried up and was deserted.

Run Bdr Das refused to believe this was happening and held on. But when the orders came, he had to make a move.

“We got the orders to dismantle the structures twice already. If it is what the government wants, I have to oblige. I cried a lot,” said the former mail runner.

Run Bdr Das was born in Rangthangling. His job as a mail runner took him to places. When his two children passed away, one after another, his wife, Tila Maya Das cursed the place and followed him to Mendrelgang, then known as Manglabari.

“We lived in a temporary shed below the town. The town was later relocated to the current place. It was 60 years ago,” Run Bdr Das said.

Recognising Tila’s skills, a village head gifted a sewing machine to the family. At 94, Run Bdr still used the machine. Parents from nearby areas come to him for school uniforms, which keeps him busy.

“I had to maintain the machine only twice. It is a family heirloom,” he says, uncovering the machine. Age hasn’t dimmed his will to work hard.

After 16 years as a mail runner, Run Bdr worked as the town’s caretaker. He took the same responsibilities at the Basic Health Unit.  He retired and bought his current house from a landlord at Nu 10,000. “We were the early settlers in the town. I planted these trees in the town,” says Run Bdr pointing at the three huge trees forming a canopy over the area.

Dil Kumar remembers three lanes of shops and houses. “Every Tuesday, the town would be crowded with people. Local products would be traded here,” says the father of four.

He is sad for his father. “Relocation order has weighed heavily on him.”

He said that the family is moving to Pemashong, in the same gewog. “We have to start from scratch. We have a temporary shed in our land,” he said.

He claims that earlier a landowner had land registration certificates for four-decimal land each but the landowners illegally leased it to shopkeepers. The authorities instructed them to dismantle the structures and land registration certificates were taken from them two years ago.

They later requested the authorities, stating that they would operate according to the rules but to no avail.

Ugyen Dorji owned a bar in the town. He resettled from Paro 20 years ago. “The town gradually grew as the population increased.”

In the past, a total of 12 permanent structures were built. The town had hardware shops, grocery stores, barber, bars, and restaurants. Before dismantling works, there were seven businesses operating from temporary sheds in an area stretching about three acres.

No one knows what the next plan is. Some say a forest office would be relocated in the area. Others have heard that the Sunkosh project office would be built there.

Located about 18km away south-east from Damphu, it was identified as a satellite town seven years ago. There were talks of providing basic amenities, bringing new opportunities to the small town.

The excitement is now  disappearing. Except for a lone vegetable shed, it is a dead town. The vegetable shed is empty too.

Two years ago, despite budget constraints, the dzongkhag municipal official said the town would be developed in the current Plan. Basic amenities such as water supply, market shed, road maintenance, and waste collecting facility in the area were included in the development plan.

An official from the dzongkhag administration said that there might be development plans in the 13th Five Year Plan.