Migma Lhamo Sherpa is a community volunteer from Sarpang. At the watchtower in Dekiling, on the Sarpang-Gelephu highway, she is having a late lunch. Her friend has left for an urgent medical check-up. They are on Covid-19 duty.
Today, Migma’s son brought her lunch from home.
“We take turns to go for lunch because we can’t afford to keep the highway and the border unattended,” she said.
This is how women from Dekiling are ensuring that border crossings do not happen as Covid-19 cases increases in India.
Over 45 women from the gewog have volunteered for the job. There are seven makeshift observation points. They are mostly located near the information routes.
The gewog has also built a temporary gate at Yangchenphug. The women on duty ask people to wash their hands and to declare their travel history before entering the gewog.
“Many appreciate our effort. Our job is to not allow anyone cross the open borders,” said Sonam Lhamo, a volunteer from Dekiling. “If everyone took care of their backyard, it would be much easier to fight the pandemic.”
The risk of the disease reaching our village was very high, said Sonam Lhamo. “We are able to assist the police stop people trying to smuggle tobacco products also.”
The gewog administration in collaboration with the public built the observation points. Men are on duty at late hours. Women watch the border during the day.
The volunteers said their role was more important with the situation in the Indian states worsening by the day.
The women are at the observation points by 6:30am. Their duty ends at 7pm when the men return for night duty.
Dekiling gup, Padam Singh Mongar, said the volunteers would be on duty until the pandemic ends.
He added that the volunteers might need the support of police or DeSuup for safety.
“We do not know what kind of situation they might encounter while ensuring the places are monitored round the clock. They feel vulnerable,” he said.