By YK Poudel 

Police detain hawkers who fail to leave the street on time and thromde regulations restrict them from operating their business based on several occasions. Many speculate about the street hawkers being restricted from doing business at popular religious sites, the government plans to provide long-term assistance to them. 

Member of Parliament, Mongar Constituency, Karma Lhamo during the National Assembly recently questioned the government regarding the plans and strategies initiated by the government to allow the vendors to run their businesses.

Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment (MoICE), Karma Dorji said that the street hawkers do not have a business licence due to which they are not under the ministry. “However, for an improved service to the hawkers, relevant agencies had a discussion recently and guideline has been developed for long-term support.”

“Many have to support their families as the sole breadwinner of the family. It is a respectable business as well,” Lyonpo said. By looking into such matters, the ministry, Thromde, police division and other stakeholders involved have prepared a policy as a guideline to address such issues,” he said.

Based on the guideline prepared the government plans to allow street hawkers – selling homemade items such as thukpa, steaming momopuri, tea and suja, and vendors selling religious items around the religious sites shall be allowed with designated areas within the locations allocated.

The vendors must make sure that they abide by the guideline and ensure that hygiene, food safety and waste are always regulated.

Moreover, street hawkers shall be given training on item preparation, cleanliness and proper waste management.

Tshering Yangdon, 26, sells momo and porridge. She said that better policies and guidelines have encouraged the hawkers. “Sometimes there are incidents where the police officials chase hawkers from the location.”

According to her, having to leave the station before people visit after party times has hampered the business.

Phuba Wangmo, 43, said that such initiatives from the government will help them assist their family better. “I am a mother of two sending my children to school as well as managing the house through this business.”

According to Food Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2007 (FRRB), all street food vendors are required to obtain a Food Handlers Licence before they can operate as a street food business.

The vendor’s stalls and premises shall be of a type approved by the relevant authority to avoid contamination of food and harbouring pests, as per the FRRB. There are eight other clauses that a vendor must adhere to in maintaining hygiene, equipment, water supply, location and licensing procedures.

The story of street hawking has come a long way from hawkers considered affecting licensed businesses in 1997, May 24 to the government supporting with hawking centre in Thimphu since 2016. 

Today, there are about 65 street hawkers in Thimphu.