About 10 timeworn mud houses make up Dophuchen (Dorokha) town of Samtse. Inside one of these old mud houses, Aum Kadom peels doma.

Originally from Haa, she is now settled in Dophuchen. “We have been in this town for a long time now,” she said, adding that all her children grew up in Dophuchen.

However, Aum Kadom is not happy with the town’s development which has stalled.

Over the years life in Dophuchen has drastically transformed with road connectivity. But the town, that is also the centre for the dungkhag, has seen little development. The town also is the location of the dungkhag and gewog offices, other government agencies and financial services.

People are keen to replace the mud houses with new concrete ones. But their hands are tied.

The land on which the town stands belongs to Dorokha Middle Secondary School (DMSS), which is a central school today. The school’s management has served the community with two notices to vacate the land.

Initially the land was under Dophuchen dungkhag but in 2012, the 4.43 acre plot was placed under the school’s thram.

DMSS principal Pema Chogyal said that when the school was upgraded to a middle school in 2008,  no government land was available and the dungkhag decided to place the town’s land under the school’s thram. As per government requirements, a middle school requires more than 20 acres of land.

Appointee town secretary, Tshering Wangdi, who has lived in the town for more than 35 years said that the land was transferred to the school without informing the town’s residents. “This land went to the school without our knowledge,” he said.

The town secretary said alternative land must be provided for town development. “This is not fair,” Tshering Wangdi said. People have lived in this town since the 1950s, he added, explaining the town area was once called Bazaar Dara and marked as a thromsa. Some of its residents even paid taxes.

A shopkeeper, Dil Maya Rai, who has lived in the town for decades said she is hopeful the government will allow them to remain in the town. She also hopes that they will be allowed to construct buildings for commercial purposes.

Dil Maya Rai lives in a mud house constructed in the 1970s. She said the structure has weakened since then and that it is unsafe today.

Another town resident, Buddha Lepcha, a restaurant owner said that nobody had consulted with them when the land was merged with the school’s. He added that officials in the area are helpless as the decision to merge the land was made by other officials during a different time.

Buddha Lepcha said that people used to pay taxes before. He pointed out that the town’s residents are not resisting the notice to vacate the land but that at least an alternative land where they can resettle should be provided.

A villager in Dophuchen, Devi Charan Chapagai, 64, said that the present town is the central point for Dophuchen dungkhag, which consists of three gewogs.

“I would like to see this town develop,” he said, adding that it is the best place to develop a town as Dophuchen lacks space.

DMSS principal Pema Chogyal said he is unaware of how the dungkhag office then processed the transfer and if the town’s residents were consulted. But it is school’s land now.

While residents claim that the land was registered as a throm area, the principal said that the land was provided as dungkhag land.

Pema Chogyal said that he has written to the dzongkhag to look into the matter.

At present construction is ongoing for a new central school at Dogap village in Dophuchen. Once completed, the current central school will be downgraded to a lower school.

Dophuchen’s residents said that the land owned by the school could then be returned to the town to allow for development. The town’s secretary Tshering Wangdi said that the school would not need so much land. “If the new central school was supposed to get constructed in this town, we would not interfere,” he said. “But why would a lower school need such a huge chunk of land.”

Meanwhile, Aum Kadom, lives in constant fear that the old house she runs a business in today might collapse if a strong earthquake occurs. “But life has to go on,” she said, as she continued peeling doma.

Rajesh Rai | Dophuchen