Neten Dorji | Trashigang

To cope with the coronavirus pandemic, taxi driver Sonam of Trashiyangtse has changed his job.  He has stopped driving and has become a farmer, sometimes working at construction sites.

For two months, he has not carried a single passenger. “Without movement of people in the locality, I thought of changing my work for the time being,” he said. “We have lost the business,” he said. His taxi is parked in front of his house.

Taxi drivers of Trashigang said with the government urging to reduce movements and people staying at home, towns are virtually empty and taxi drivers are forced to park their vehicles.

There are more than 100 taxi drivers in Trashigang and Trashiyangtse. Karchung, a taxi driver, said earlier he used to earn between Nu 30,000 and 40,000 a month. “But since the movement of people reduced, my earnings have plunged to Nu 10,000 a month.”

Long-distance travels have almost come to a halt. Another taxi driver, Tshering Phuntsho said, earlier he used to get two to six times trips from Trashigang to other dzongkhags. He had been plying between home In Kanglung and Trashigang town for the past three weeks, except some occasional trips to nearby dzongkhags. “I usually shell out Nu 1,000 daily on fuel. But in the past three weeks, I have spent around Nu 1,000 and that too I couldn’t recover from the occasional trips,” he said.

The situation is worrying, he said. “We have seen our revenue drop by  70 percent to 80 percent.”

A local bus plying between Monger and Trashigang is seen most of time with empty seats. “My monthly income has reduced from Nu 21,000 to Nu 5,000,” said bus driver, Sonam Wangdi. “Without passenger, it is a loss for me travelling from Monger to Trashigang. I don’t earn enough to refuel.”

Taxi drivers are looking forward for alternative income source for time being. Some look for construction work, while others are planning to take up agriculture work and stay back home.

“It is better to earn some income, instead of staying idle in the town,” said Pema Wangchuk. “If the situation improves, we can resume our regular work.”