Goods diverted to Gelephu after Pling declared red zone

Nima | Gelephu

The Food Corporation of Bhutan in Gelephu employed 14 youth volunteers as it readies to facilitate import and export after Phuentsholing was declared a red zone and movement of vehicles strictly restricted.

The volunteers are engaged in unloading essential commodities coming from India and load goods that are supplied to other dzongkhags.

FCB received over six truckloads of imported consignments, mostly essential commodities, in the past five days from Siliguri, India. These consignments were otherwise handled through the mini dry port in Phuentsholing.

FCB’s regional manager, Ugyen Choedup said the volunteers were employed as the office was running short of manpower. “Most stocks from Siliguri are diverted here since Phuentsholing is declared a red zone,” he said.

He added that FCB would also be importing tomatoes, onions, and betel leaves from India.

The youth volunteers are kept in a containment centre with strict compliance to Covid-19 protocols set by the dzongkhag Covid-19 task force. The team consists of those who had lost jobs to the pandemic, teachers and students.

The team will have to unload a minimum of nine truckloads of consignments in a day, supported by officials from FCB. Ugyen Choedup said that the youth are paid a monthly remuneration of Nu 12,000 besides food and lodging supports.   

To ensure none of the members are exposed to the virus, no contacts would be entertained.

While expatriate labourers are not easily available, they demand high charges, according to FCB officials.

A volunteer, Ganga Ram Ghalley said the group had always been looking for an opportunity to help the country during the pandemic.

Expatriate workers from Bihar and day workers from the nearby Indian town of Dathgari did most loading and unloading tasks in Gelephu until the Covid-19 lockdown enforced border sealing in March this year.

Since then, most enterprises and related government agencies had been facing a shortage of manpower. The 14 youths currently working with FCB are among the 50 youths registered with the labour ministry office in Gelephu for loading works.

Regional director, Sonam Bumtap said it is also an opportunity for Bhutanese to take up the task that was mostly done by foreign workers.

“Bhutanese are not interested in this type of work. It is the right time to encourage them on a voluntary basis when the country is in need,” he said.

The remaining youth volunteers will be deployed for similar works when the mini dry port for export and import is ready.

The FCB auction yard in Gelephu received over 18 metric tonnes of potatoes from Bumthang yesterday and the auction would be carried out online using WhartsApp.