Rajesh Rai | Samtse
Despite sharing a long border with India, Samtse so far has not had a single Covid-19 positive case from the community.
However, the dzongkhag reported the highest number of illegal cross-border activities—84 cases were registered and 119 people charge-sheeted for such illegal activities until recently. The court convicted 113 individuals.
Among the illegal activities that posed serious Covid-19 transmission risks, the illegal border crossing was the highest with a total of 32 registered cases, under which 42 individuals were charge-sheeted and 39 were convicted.
On February 21, coinciding with His Majesty The King’s 41st Birth Anniversary, 110 persons convicted of breaching the Covid-19 protocols were granted a Royal Pardon. Most had served a minimum of six months behind the bar.
Twenty-four individuals, who are serving prison terms for breaching the Covid-19 protocols will only have to serve for a maximum of six months in accordance with the Royal Pardon.
As per the Royal Decree, 49 individuals, who were convicted for breaching the Covid-19 protocols and other offences, and have served more than six months will also be pardoned. However, they will have to serve the prison term for other convictions.
Eight individuals, who were convicted for breaching Covid-19 protocol and other offences will have their sentence for Covid-19 protocol breach reduced to a maximum of six months. They have to, however, serve for other convictions.
Dusk is approaching. It’s been cold and raining for the past few days in Kencholing village of Yoeseltse gewog.
Nim Dorji, 32 is out on the porch with his wife and two-year-old son. Nim Dorji returned home recently after His Majesty The King, on February 21 granted Royal Pardon to him and many like him, who were sentenced to jail for breaching the lockdown protocol.
He had crossed the border to meet a friend and breached the Covid-19 protocol. He was given a five-year prison term and was in prison for about seven months.
“I wasn’t aware of the law and rules. But now I do. I’ll never repeat such mistakes in my life,” Nim Dorji said.
Leaving a wife and three children at home wasn’t easy, Nim Dorji said.
His wife Bishnu Maya said she used to cry every night thinking about her husband and the children’s future.
“Those were difficult times. I couldn’t answer when children asked where their father had gone. We can never thank His Majesty The King enough but I say little prayers for my King every day.”
On March 25, 2020, just two days after the border gates were sealed as the response to the pandemic, Dal Bahadur Limbu, 28, was arrested trying to get doma (betel nut) from across the border. He was given a four-year prison term.
Leaving behind his wife (who was four months pregnant) and a five-year-old son was painful. He thought that the one mistake that he made ruined his life. But after nearly 11 months in prison, he received the Royal Pardon.
When Dal Bahadur returned home, his wife had delivered a healthy son, who was already four months old. He had his friends pinch him. Yes, it was real. He was home again.
“Four years behind the bar is a long, long time. It was such a mental burden that I was worried about my family all the time,” said Dal Bahadur.
“I was never at peace. I felt bad for my wife and my parents in the village. Even my father wanted to stay in jail, just for my sake.”
But that bit of life in jail was one of the greatest lessons for Dal Bahadur.
“I made a mistake and I deeply regret that. I’ll never do anything like this ever again. All I want to do in life is to serve my country in whatever capacity I can. I don’t know how to thank my King for all he’s been to us.”
In their small shop in the heart of Samtse town, Dal Bahadur Limbu and his wife are busy in their shop. Their little baby, the newest member of the family, is in a crib.
Dal Bahadur Gurung, 35, spent more than six months in prison before he was released.
He was arrested for breaching the Covid-19 protocol on the way to the bank.
On June 3, 2020, on his way to the bank, he asked for water from a shop across the Duarpani border for his three-year-old son. In doing so, he had breached the Covid-19 protocol.
Dal Bahadur Gurung was sentenced to three years and two months for criminal nuisance and five months for breaching public order and tranquillity.
He is happy to be back with his family.
“I’m very thankful to His Majesty The King. Now that I’m back with my family, I feel I’m a new-born myself,” he said.