We're Live Bangla Sunday, October 25, 2020

Lockdown hitting the low-income group hard in Bhutan

DIGEST-ENG-20-08-2020-Bhutan

Essential items and vegetables are being delivered door-to-door during the nationwide lockdown. People who can pay can avail themselves of the service but it’s a different story with people from low-income backgrounds.

Phul Maya Subba works with Thimphu Thromde office and earns Nu 6,500 per month. Her husband, who used to work with a contruction company, has lost his job.

Phul Maya’s family had dahl and rice for lunch today. “I have only rice, dahl, and oil which I bought on account from the thromde office after the lockdown.”

When the vegetable truck came, she could afford to buy only half a kilogram of tomato. “I am picking whatever little I have in my kitchen garden.”

Following the nationwide lockdown on August 11, suppliers of essential items across the country were overwhelmed by hundreds of phone calls. People complain about poor co-ordination and irratic supply of essential items.  Some people received essential items and vegetables only days after they placed their order.

To ease service delivery, the government allowed various shops and online site to deliver essential items in the following days.

Karuna Gurung, living in a temporary shelter in Olakha, Thimphu said that although receiving essential items was just one phone call away, she did not have the money to buy groceries in large quantities. She said that according to her convenience she used to buy groceries and vegetables in small portions. 

Nirmala Gurung, who also lives in a temporary shelter in Olakha, said that her husband lost his job months ago. Nirmala has only Nu 1,000. The family needs a bag of rice.

Tshering Tashi, who lives in temporary shelter below Hindu temple in Thimphu, is a mechanic in one of the workshop in Olakha. Tshering Tashi lives with his brother, niece, and nephew. His brother works in construction site-it is not a stable job. His niece and nephew are doing management and tally courses in Thimphu.

Tshering Tashi said that as he was working at a private workshop he was bot sure whether he would get paid for August if the lockdown prolonged. He has been able to save only Nu 5,000.

Tashi Tenzin, Sangay Choden, and Pema Choden live together below Buddha Point, in a temporary shelter. They all work as salespersons. 

Tashi Tenzin said that on the day lockdown was announced they rushed to buy a bag of rice. Their landlord gave them some vegetables.

Phul Maya, Nirmala, Tshering, Tashi, and Karuna have been able to get by somehow. But what if the lockdown extends? What would happen to many families and individuals like them?