Hawkers: Selling of thukpa (porridge) is not illegal but ‘informal’ and one, which is an integral part of the larger macroeconomic structure throughout the world, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), stated in a press release, yesterday.

According to the press release, the party listened to the grievances shared by the thukpa sellers from Thimphu, Samtse, Zhemgang, Haa, Trashiyangtse, Mongar, Samdrupjongkhar and Punakha on how the ban has affected their livelihoods and said that banning is not an option.

Police officials last month informed 43 hawkers in Thimphu to stop selling their items as it was considered illegal. The decision came after discussion among officials from Royal Bhutan Police, Department of Trade, Thimphu Thromde and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority in May earlier this year.

The press release stated that the country’s urban policies are hostile towards the informal traders. “DNT would like to advocate building ‘inclusive cities’ not ‘world-class cities’ that would exclude the majority of our population, especially the poor.”

DNT stated that when the party checked the laws and policies to see if thukpa selling was really illegal and also to find out whether there was any law in place restricting street vendors from conducting their businesses, the party said, “There is no law!”

Police Chief Brigadier Kipchu Namgyel in an interview last month told Kuensel that apart from illegality, selling food on the streets have issues related to sanitation and hygiene, littering and creating a conducive environment for crime.

DNT however insists that act is not only a serious issue of ‘economic injustice’ but also that of ‘social injustice’ as majority of them come from low-income group or the base of the economic pyramid. Harming them would be creating inequality through injustice, further widening the gap between the rich and the poor in the country, the press release stated.

DNT stated the examples of other ‘informal’ businesses such as weaving and farming as a business. “When you weave Kira/Gho, grow vegetables, fruits, rice, and other cash crops and sell, you don’t have license but your weaving business is not illegal, it’s informal; Similarly when you make thukpa and sell, you don’t have license but your thukpa business is not illegal, it’s informal.”

Informal economy is here to stay. The Parliament, the Government, and the Society must recognize that informal economy is a permanent feature of the economy, polity, and society, stated the press release.

Younten Tshedup