Male Iron Rat Year

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

While Bhutan will remember the Year of the Rat, for many of the difficulties and successes, what happened in Samtse will remain etched in the memory of the residents for a long time.

The rat’s nature of sneaking and hiding had possessed many of the residents in Samtse.

Despite having a porous border and also being one of the most populated dzongkhags, Samtse didn’t have any Covid-19 cases from the community. Just as Phuentsholing, the dzongkhag was identified as a “high-risk zone.”

However, the dzongkhag reported the highest number of illegal cross-border activities, compared to other southern border high-risk areas like Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar.

Until recently, there were 84 cases registered and 119 people were charge-sheeted for such illegal activities. Of that, the court convicted 113 of them.

Among the illegal activities that posed grave Covid-19 transmission risks, the illegal border crossing was the highest with a total of 32 registered cases under which 42 individuals were charge-sheeted and 39 of them were convicted.

One of the main highlights of illegal crossing was reported on July 15. A 20-year-old man clandestinely entered his village, Tshongzom in Samtse gewog, from the border. Prior to his illegal entry, he was in Jaigaon.

Although the man tested negative for Covid-19, about 87 villagers, including the primary contacts were placed under community quarantine. On July 27, all the villagers tested negative.

Illegal import of tobacco products from across the border was the second major illegal activity. From the 26 total cases registered, 37 individuals were dragged to the court, out of which 34 were convicted.

Samtse court also convicted 24 people for failure to report, breach of quarantine, and breach of lockdown.

There were also cases related to illegal import and export of alcohol and drugs.

The highest number of illegal border activities were recorded in Norbugang (Chengmari).

There are over 74 points of entry that are manned by police, army and De-Suups. At any given day, over 800 of them guard and patrol these areas to prevent illegal activities, which could pose Covid-19 threats.

Samtse residents are happy the Female Iron-Ox Year is here. Many wish for good health, a better yield for crops, and prosperity all of which were devastated in the Year of the Rat.