Settlement: Following Phuentsholing Thromde’s decision to discontinue power supply to illegal settlements along the Amochhu embankment in Phuentsholing last month, about five households have left for good.

Those living illegally, some have settled in low-grade government apartments, others have found sanctuary elsewhere.

There are still more than 40 families settled illegally in makeshift houses along the banks. Most of the houses are crude huts constructed using tins, weak corrugated sheets, bamboo and plastics.

They do not have electricity. Many families are compelled to stay so that their children could complete school.

Yesterday, near the YDF Hall, Narma Wangdi was discussing a serious issue with his friend.

“I have not yet found a house to move in,” the 53-yea-old security guard said.

Narma Wangdi has two young children and a wife to look after. He even tried to find an apartment in Jaigaon. He earns Nu 7,000 monthly. This is a story of change that is affecting people with lower income.

Narma Wangdi’s elder son, a machine operator in Pasakha, has found a house in Pasakha. But that would mean a lot of transportation expenditure.

“So, I am here right now,” said Narma Wangdi. “We have land back home, but educating children is also very important.”

There is always the fear of floods and rising crime, but the people are holding on to the place. That’s because they have little choice. Thromde’s evacuation notices have also not worked.

Some of the people here have been living along the embankment for more than 20 years and had started running small businesses.

Thromde stopped supplying electricity after several warnings.

Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that although the thromde is aware of the people’s problems, the settlements along the embankment are illegal.

“We have formed a committee,” said Uttar Kumar Rai, adding that the settlements may have to be demolished,if the committee decided to do so. “If the people there are allowed to stay, many more would add up and settle there illegally.”

The fire incident that killed two toddlers here last year is the kind of danger the settlement faces. But families here have about 112 children going to schools in Phuentsholing.

A few metres down from Narma Wangdi’s hut is Suku Lama’s dilapidated shop, which is also her house.

“Are they really going to demolish all the houses?” the 80-year-old asked. “This is the only house my husband has given me.”

Suku Lama’s husband, who is from Trongsa, is currently in jail in Zhemgang. She has a daughter and a grandson living with her.

Not far from here is Kesang and her sister, a class VI student. The sisters said that their father, who is a driver, has been looking for a house.

“He said he has not found one yet,” Kesang said. Kesang’s sister was found doing her homework outside the makeshift. She is busy and lack of electricity is making her schoolwork difficult.

Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing