English | Dzongkha Saturday, July 21, 2018

Plight of Thimphu’s street Hawkers

By Sonam Lhamo, Thimphu
Apr 22, 2012
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Street hawkers selling fast food and snacks are a common sight especially at the bus terminal and hospital area. Despite being illegal, there are quite a number of them. For them it is the only source of income. To help the street hawkers, Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs, BAOWE or is coming up with a project called women’s own open market.

It is six in the morning. 46 year old Tshering Bida is already on her way to the bus terminal. Carrying her goods in big bags, she hurries towards the terminal. She is one of the street hawkers and has been in the business for the last seven years. When she reaches Lungtenzampa Bridge, she looks down at the bus terminal for thromde Inspectors.

This is a daily routine for Aum Tshering.  Once at the bus terminal, she looks for a good spot to display and set her goods.  It is the best time for Aum Tshering to sell off majority of her goods, which mostly consists of chips, juices and water. She sells them at a slightly higher price than the maximum retail price. She also sells doma and chugo. Her main customers are the passengers travelling to different destinations. Tshering Bida  said “When we came here to live in Thimphu, it was difficult with all my children going to school”.

Most of the street hawkers had a similar story to share. While many sold packaged food few of them sold hot rice porridge and tea in the mornings and evenings.

The street hawkers are not only in bus terminal but can also be found in other locations like the hospital and the memorial chorten area.  It is illegal to sell goods on the streets.

As per the law, it is not allowed. We have licensed shopkeepers who are selling things, hawkers are without license, said Thimphu Thrompon KinlayDorjee. The other reason is hawkers don’t manage their waste properly. They dump their wastes.  So finally we had to remove the hawkers. It was getting out of control as the number went on increasing, the thrompon added.

The Thrompon said they have thromde inspectors to monitor the street hawkers. If the inspectors find anyone selling on the streets, they confiscate the goods. The goods are then donated to the dratshang and monasteries.  But this has not stopped the streets hawkers from continuing with their business.

One of the hawkers Devi Maya Khandal said once the inspectors seized my flask and told me not to sell, But I continued as I have no other options, I have school going children”.

Soon hawkers will not have to play the cat and mouse game with the thromde officials.  The Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE) is initiating a project called Women’s own open market with the trade name Street Food with funds from Civil Society Organization Fund Facility Office (CSOFF).  The President and CEO of the BAOWE, Damchae Dem said that the project aims to provide a favorable working space for the street hawkers.  She said that the concerned agencies have been supportive of the project.

As a pilot project, the BAOWE will be constructing a permanent structure at the bus terminal, with approval from the Thromde office.  RSTA has already identified a space for the project near the bus station. The president and CEO of BAOWE said after the construction, the hawkers will cook fast foods and sell it from that place. However, hawkers will not be allowed to sell imported snacks like chips. Until the permanent structure is constructed, BAOWE is planning to build a temporary shed for the hawkers.

Earlier this week BAOWE officials met with the street hawkers to brief them on the project. There were seventeen of them including three men.  Despite, being in the business for several years, most do not have even a bank account. To encourage them to save their earnings, BAOWE helped them open an account with the Bhutan Development Bank Ltd.  BAOWE then deposited Nu one thousand each in their account.

The project will be launched during the SAARC chamber of Women Entrepreneurship Council meeting at Paro on the April 23.

9 Comments for “Plight of Thimphu’s street Hawkers”

  1. Hot

    Confisticating goods from the hawkers, although officially illigal, is in itself a huge crime. In is a sin. You are denying the livelihood of people who survive on such small businesses. I understand they dont have a business license and that they also are do not have census in thimphu who may vote for the thrompon.
    However, we need to accomodate these poor souls and deal with the sanitation problem. there must be a way.

  2. bhutei

    If there is a will then there sure is a way. I do totally support the views shared above. I think we just can’t simply ignore the needs of impoverished people and go against their wishes and daily business by fining and confiscating their goods because they don’t have a business license or are littering the place. It was always nerve wrecking and heart wrenching to see the business of the hawkers being disturbed on a daily basis by the city inspectors. Coming up with a solution to deal with the problem by BAOWE would very much put an end to the daily hassles of the hawkers enabling them to carry out their daily business with a great deal of peace of mind for themselves as well as the frequent spectators.

  3. BAWOE is doing great job! Way to goo.. We need NGOs like that to help Bhutan further grow and to benefit the common people!

  4. yangsel

    It is really a blessing for the poor souls to accomodate them in a proper way. But strict system should be in place to let not snatch the benefit by those who are not actualy in need of such help. We experienced a lot of misuse in every field.

  5. Dorji

    BAOWE great job….applause for them… we always should support them for such great initiative helping poor people grow up.

  6. good initiative and we look forward for Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs, BAOWE to continue the same in the other dzonkhags. keep it up

  7. dorji

    i dont understand the irony of Bhutanese society ………….any thing we do(economic activities of any kind) we just give a reason that “i have all my children going to school” there is a big doubt in free schooling in our country ( the basic education till 10th standard) ? from this i can conclude that we just blame on ones own school going kids for the expenditure ……the school in rural area are dying with less number of std ………..is it necessary to enroll kids in urban school? any way love that BAOWE initiating a project .

  8. Kuya

    It was a well research and balance story…. Keep it up

  9. Jangchuk

    It is good initiatives by BAWOE and going to build structures near bus terminal. My suggestion is, it would be better if they are encourage to sale through mobile kitchen just like that of in Bangkok street with roof. That will help avoiding space limitation problem in thimphu. The mobile kitchen in the sense that they cannot sell their food items moving from one place to another but they should fix it at an identified places with wheels under neath so it is movable when ever their is in need of space. That will also be a good attraction for tourists to take typical Bhutanese food. BAFRA should further train them for food cleanliness and prepare for westerners tastes.
    If this could be suggested to BAWOE CEO by BBS because she may not read our feedback.

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