Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Despite the complete lockdown ordered by the government of India, the second gate that connects Phuentsholing to the infamous Bau Bazaar in Jaigaon was a busy place yesterday.
Bolero pickup trucks and trucks carrying essential goods were continuously let in after disinfection. By evening, more than 200 vehicles had entered Phuentsholing.
These trucks brought in vegetables, other essential commodities, and raw materials for the Pasakha industrial estate. While the essential commodities and vegetables were directed to the mini dry port, the industrial bound trucks took the Northern Bypass road and headed straight to Pasakha.
The quantity may have reduced, but the import of vegetables and fruits are continuing. The lockdown may have caused some inconvenience, but the problem is only with shortage of labourers to unload and transfer the goods. With the lockdown, labourers who enter Phuentsholing for odd jobs were restricted.
On March 23, more than 600 labourers exited Phuentsholing.
However, the regional labour office deployed 66 unemployed youth and adults at the dry port to replace the lost hands. Labour officials said there are more jobless youth who would take up the job.
Depending on the load size, the groups are charging Nu 1,000 to Nu 5,000.
About 10 youth from a recovery volunteer group known as Happiness Centre Recovery Voluntary Group (HCRVG) in Phuentsholing has grabbed the opportunity to earn for the centre’s sustenance.
The centre’s co-founder Ugyen Dorji, 33, said they are working since March 26.
“We are charging Nu 1,200 to Nu 1500 for transferring goods to Bhutanese vehicles from the Indian vehicles,” he said, adding that it was a sustenance opportunity for the centre.
Grocery stores in Phuentsholing refilled their stocks yesterday with consignments arriving by the truckloads.
Hundreds of industrial bound trucks that were stuck across the border also entered Phuentsholing yesterday.
At a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the government would ensure continuous supply of vegetables. He said the government had made special arrangements to ensure the supply of vegetables until the local produce could substitute.
The problem is not with supply, it is with transporters, he said.
“If there is shortage, I will go and bring the vegetables,” the prime minister said emphasizing that there is no need to panic or hoard vegetables.
By late afternoon yesterday, the farmer’s market saw truckloads of vegetables come from Phuentsholing. “People are unnecessarily panicking,” said a wholesale dealer. “There are enough for everyone and we keep receiving vegetables,” she said.
The only vegetable in short supply is chili. “There is no chili in the market,” said a vendor. “The chili that many bought thinking it was local is not local. With the import of vegetables scrutinised, chilies will not reach the market,” he said.