Yangchen C Rinzin
Following national lockdown on Tuesday, Thimphu Thromde immediately circulated the details of eight stock centres in different locations to supply essential food items during the lockdown.
Each centre had contact person’s number to order for the items. The goods are delivered door-to-door.
But, by afternoon, people complained of poor coordination and unsystematic supply of essential items.
People complained of centres not receiving the calls and essential items not being delivered on time. Some were confused where to contact for vegetables and many were frustrated to find phones either busy for hours or switched off.
A couple from Babesa did not receive vegetables even after 24 hours after placing order. In another incident, a man complained after the contact person he called was in Haa and some even reported of people from centre being rude.
More than 350 people called eight different centres on Tuesday and thromde was able to deliver only 40 percent of the order or 138 people. Thromde completed the rest of the delivery yesterday.
At the centres and thromde office, officials are busy trying to respond to each call and cater for the services.
Thimphu Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said while they accept there was a glitch, it was difficult to manage and implement systematically, as it was the first day of lockdown. “We didn’t expect overwhelming calls and order on the first day. The lockdown happened on Tuesday, which means people would have shopped during weekends to last a week but looks like they didn’t.”
Thrompon also said there could be a possibility that some people are trying to hoard.
Thromde has deployed five officials, 10 teachers on volunteer and about 50 De-Suups in each centre to take orders, pack, and deliver. Five vehicles are deployed to deliver the goods.
“It’s difficult to deliver on time when there are fewer people but needs to attend to many calls and take orders,” thrompon said. “Realising the complained, we’ve now deployed additional people to cater more.”
Yesterday, one centre alone got almost 300 calls. The centre is challenged with delivering items right away or deliver on the same day because of the huge order they receive.
Thrompon said that due to miscommunication with the department of agriculture, which is supposed to supply vegetable, it could not supply vegetables. After resolving the issue, thromde will also deliver the vegetable along with the essential items.
“We’ve now decided that if it’s not possible to take orders through phone, we ask people to text their order with their location details to reduce time consumption,” Thrompon said. “We’ll be soon be coming up with the toll-free number in each centre.”
Thromde has also added additional wholesalers to supply essential foods along with the other four existing wholesalers, including Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited. It decided to take orders and deliver from 9am to 5pm only.
People can order from 9am till 11am, thromde will deliver from 11am till 1pm and take another order from 1pm till 3pm and deliver from 3pm till 5pm.
“We’re hoping to improve and work systematically like those who take order will only take order, then those who’re supposed to pack will only pack and rest will deliver,” Thrompon said. “We’re trying to deliver as fast as possible and people should bear with us.”
Thromde caters for almost 100,000 people. Thromde has also decided to let the grocery shops with online services to cater to people privately and order items online.
One of the officials said that the biggest issue was people calling at the same time and the network getting jammed. “Sometimes, our phones run out of battery. One call takes almost five minutes so this is why people find the numbers busy. Some people even call asking us to deliver the beer and tobacco while a few even call them to deliver fast food.”
More than 100 households in Samdrupjongkhar availed the door-to-door services from the shops identified by the dzongkhag administration’s Covid-19 task force.
The shops deliver essential commodities as and when they get orders. The shops had made it easier for people to order essential items by creating a WeChat group. Each group has a minimum of 500 members.
The Covid-19 task force has also identified the shops in all the dzongkhag’s 11 gewogs and two drungkhags.
Bhutan Red Cross Society is involved in helping and evacuating the patients who require health services.
De-Suups, police, forest, customs and immigration officials, among others, monitor and help deliver the essential items.
A resident, Tshering Dendup, who came to collect rice, cooking oil and vegetables, said that the people did not have to worry about the essential commodities. “But it is challenging for me to stay the whole day at home.”
A resident said that although the shops delivered the essential items they did not do so on time. “Some shops take orders and do not deliver while some refuse to accept the orders.”
Trashigang and Trashiyangtse
De-Suups coordinates the home delivery of essential food items and vegetables in the town.
A group led by a dzongkhag agriculture officer ensures that people get what they need.
After a customer places the order, escorted by De-Suup, the group delivers goods and vegetables.
The services have been managed well in Trashigang. More than 100 households got vegetables and 65 households got food items.
A resident in Trashigang, Sangay Zangmo, panicked when the prime minister announced lockdown for the country. She wasn’t prepared and she has a large family to look after.
The residents of Trashigang town will get fresh vegetables delivered to their doorstep as a farmers’ group plans to make vegetable delivery soon.
“We have decided to collect vegetables from Udzorong, Bartsham, Samkhar, Bidung, and Shoungphu and deliver them to those who need them,” said an assistant dzongkhag agriculture officer, Suraj Gurung.
The Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) in Trongsa has been delivering the essentials food items since yesterday.
On the first day food items were delivered to 118 households nearby town and Drakteng.
The office lists the orders in the morning and delivers after lunch.
The dzongkhag has identified six grocery shops, four vegetable vendors, two meat shops, a dairy product and egg dealer each to deliver as per the orders.
In the gewogs, the Gewog Sanam Tshongkhang (GST) is providing the service.
Bumthang dzongkhag had deployed four vehicles to deliver essentials food items and 13 shops are identified to deliver along with the FCBL.
The goods that are not available in GST are delivered from the town.
Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) in Gelephu started to home deliver essential items yesterday after the agency received a continuous call for essential items after the lockdown.
However, the officials involved in delivering the essential items are finding it difficult to reach the orders to the right locations.
Sonam Dema, an FCBL official, said that delivering essential items was time-consuming. “The field staff have to call several times trying to reach the essential items to the said location.”
FCBL distributed over 20 metric tonnes of essential items such as rice, sugar, oil, flour, salt, and pulses among others in the past two days.
The dzongkhag has identified 11 wholesalers from where the public can purchase essential items in the thromde area following the safety protocols during the lockdown.
Sarpang Dzongdag Karma Galay said that the plan could not come into effect as the lockdown happened suddenly.
He added that the service providers were overwhelmed with calls.
As the residence of Gelephu entered into the second day of the lockdown, people took on social media complaining about three vendors that had agreed to deliver vegetables not picking up calls.
Over eight vendors have come forward to provide home delivery services during the lockdown.
Members of dzongkhag Covid-19 task force in Mongar and identified shopkeepers have been busy attending to calls and delivering essential items door-to-door since the first day of the national lockdown.
The task force has delivered essentials like rice, oil, sugar, milk, tea and spices, soap and detergents, tissue papers, noodles and mineral water to 29 residents on the first day of lockdown.
The task force provided vehicle and salesman’s movement card yesterday to the four wholesalers and retailers based on the availability of stocks and willingness and ability to deliver the items themselves.
Pema Zangmo, an owner of Tashi Wangyel Tshongkhang, said delivering the items was challenging. “Some order just one cup of noodles.”
Dzongkhag task force team has also identified three retailers in Gyalpoizhing, one in Lingmethang, four in Yadi and Ngatshang, and four in Drametse town.
The dzongkhag Covid-19 transportation unit will facilitate vehicle for BOD to deliver LPG cylinders. As of last night, 19 households had ordered LPG refill.
Meanwhile, around 40 people are stranded in Mongar.
Tsirang and Dagana
The distribution of essential items for residents in and around Damphu town in Tsirang began yesterday evening.
The dzongkhag logistic team delivered essentials to more than 30 families in the town from Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited (FCBL) depot.
Although the dzongkhag has designated service providers and stock centres with enough food resources, authorities faced difficulties in transporting goods due to restricted movement of vehicles until temporary permit cards were made available.
The local leaders are also involved in distributing essentials items in the gewogs levels.
The dzongkhag administration has also made arrangements to supply local vegetables.
The local leaders said that the villagers have been coping with the lockdown so far. There has not been a report of a supply shortage.
Meanwhile, in Dagana, all the gewogs have been permitted to authorise seven vehicles and 14 persons to distribute essentials services to residents.
Dagana Dzongdag Phintsho Choeden has also interacted with local leaders and regional heads to sort out challenges associated with the lockdown in the gewogs.
The supply of essential items in Paro during lockdown had been seamless.
Four identified grocery stores along with Food Corporation of Bhutan Limited are supplying the essential items in town areas.
Local leaders headed by the gups are delivering the goods in the gewogs.
Three fair price vegetable vendors are collecting and supplying vegetables.
However, there are complaints. Dzongkhag agriculture officer, Tandin, has been receiving numerous calls, even from outside the dzongkhag.
Additional reporting by bureau reporters