Yangchen C Rinzin

There is no dearth of loaders at the Mini Dry Port (MDP) in Phuentsholing, despite the detection of Covid-19 positive cases in the area as youth come forward to shoulder the tasks.

The MDP was shut down after Phuentsholing reported the first local transmission case when a 25-year-old loader at the MDP tested Covid-19 positive on August 11.

Another 12 loaders tested positive the next day. Almost 140 loaders along with almost 60 MDP officials were quarantined.

Following deployment of 20 officials from Paro to Phuentsholing on August 15, the work at the mini dry port (MDP) resumed from August 17.

A labour ministry official said that after the approval from Phuentsholing Covid-19 taskforce, 44 candidates were deployed as loaders. However, five was relieved and one was home quarantined as per the containment protocols.

Currently, 38 loaders are working at MDP. The loaders comprise of retrenched private employees, unemployed youth, students, and other job seekers.

“The regional labour office informed interested candidates to register via social media, Facebook to expedite the supply of loaders to work at MDP,” an official said. “Initially 144 candidates registered for the job, but only 44 showed interest to work.”

The official said that some either did not respond to calls or some could not be contacted. However, 40 candidates withdrew after a few more positive Covid-19 cases were detected from the MDP who were primary contacts of the first positive cases.

“Only four candidates were actually willing to join the MDP as loaders.”

The official said that the regional office managed to recruit additional 16 candidates as loaders through Bhutan Helping Hand Coordinator Phurba Wangdi in Phuentsholing. “But due to the shortage of loaders, the ministry recruited 28 candidates for the MDP who were willing to take up the job.”

With the imports now opened mainly for the essential goods and clearing of more than 100 consignments that were stranded across the border, the MDP could require additional loaders.   

The official said that should additional loaders be needed the labour ministry is confident to provide following due process of recruitment and selection.

“In fact, we already have 37 jobseekers registered with the regional office and willing to work as loaders. They’re ready for deployment at MDP on a need basis.”

A Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for loaders of MDP and RRCO Transshipment Area has also been developed. The recruitment would be taken care of by the regional labour office.

All the workers would be tested for Covid-19 before entering the MDP quarantine facility where the loaders would be stationed inside a school. The loaders would be guarded and monitored by De-Suups on duty conducting daily attendance.

The SOP also states that workers would not be entitled to leave unless instructed by Covid-19 taskforce in case of unavoidable circumstances.

“Loaders are strictly prohibited from meeting their families or friends at school or workplace. The labour officials will help loaders to give their money to their families or deposit it.”

However, the workers would be sent home if the person meets with an accident at the workplace, resulting in temporary disability or permanent disability upon testing.

The loaders earn Nu 1,600 per day.

Loaders are also supposed to arrange their own appropriate personal protective equipment such as safety shoes, gloves and facemask at the workplace as per the SOP.