The Thimphu Thromde has barred vegetable vendors from selling their products along Norzin Lam, Thimphu’s main thoroughfare on the grounds that they crowd the main walking path and dirty the area.
After dusk one can witness street vendors running with their vegetable basket and hiding between parked cars as thromde inspectors saunter through the main street, dressed in casual outfits.
For street vendors it is an everyday routine for them to get to business by dusk when the street is flooded with people.
Until the Thromde started imposing fines, vendors said that vegetables sold quickly on the main street.
NamgayWangmo, 58, from Punakha said she is unable to understand why she is not allowed to sell vegetables on the street where there is a good market opportunity for her product.
She said that unlike the street hawkers, who sell momo and Thukpa, the vegetable vendors do not litter the area and there is no threat to the city environment.
“We take care of the area after we occupy and I don’t see any problem,” Namgay Wangmo said.
Another street vegetable vendor from Khasadrapchu, Thinley Gyelmo, 36, said she hires a cab till Norzin Lam from Khasadrapchu to transport her vegetables.
“Selling vegetables on the street do not pose any threat to the health and safety of the public,” Thinley Gyelmo said.
Kencho Wangdi, 42, from Jemina is equally dejected with the Thromde’s decision and said he substituted his wife in selling vegetables on the main street.
“My wife is scared of getting nabbed as she can’t run as quickly as I can,” Kencho said. He added that it is only on the main street he can find enough customers and sell all the vegetables.
He said the Thromde decision discourage farmers like him from cultivating vegetables. He added that the Thromde could make the vendors follow proper guidelines, such as taking care of their garbage and not selling imported vegetables.
Tandin Wangdi, 28, said vendors are all farmers and selling vegetable is to sustain their livelihood so the municipality should come up with initiative to have organized market rather than prohibit them from selling.
Thromde’s environment head Yeshi Wangdi said the decision was taken after much discussion and research.
He said the Thromde found problems related to increasing numbers of street vegetable vendors. “When people can sell their vegetable easily, there is a danger of other vendors looking for opportunity on the main street,” he said. “Street is already congested with people and cars, allowing vegetable vendors would aggravate the foot path”
Yeshi Wangdi also added that penalizing people is not their desire, as stated in social media. “They claim that we are against GNH philosophy but to us pleasing few and affecting large numbers is not in line with GNH,” He said.
He also said the thromde has established several outlets for the vendors’ convenience as they were not willing to sell at Centenary Farmers Market (CFM) claiming that they do not get desired place to sell their products.
He said the Thromde also talked with the space distribution at CFM as the vendors complained about providing them undesirable spaces. The CFM clarified that preference is given to permanent vendors. “The street vendors are temporary ones and do not pay tax” he said.