22 women garment vendors in Gelephu asked to move out

22 women who own a garment shop each or temporary sheds near Gelephu vegetable market are under under a lot of stress since they have to dismantle and vacate the place before 1 February 2021 as per the order by Gelephu Thromde. The Thromde is coming up with a permanent vegetable market in that area for which they were asked to vacate.

Vendors felt that it was  an ad hoc decision as they have not received any written notification, not even once to vacate the place prior to the recent notification from the Thromde.

Vendors have requested Thromde to give them some time to vacate, however they were told that the work of construction of vegetable market was already assigned whereby the construction should begin from 1st February.

Though Gelephu Thromde has assured to relocate them, the time period of their relocation was not promised. Vendors shared that if only if they were notified about this from before, they would have looked for other alternatives.

They are worried about clearing their dues with suppliers from whom they get their garments. All they can hope for now is to get relocated at the earliest.

Vendor Binita Tiwari said that everything happened so suddenly that the vendors are left with no choice than to vacate. She said, “This is my only source of income and it got hit hard by the pandemic which affected my monthly expenses. And now, this is another hit on me and my family.”

Economical survival would be questionable for her and her family in this kind of a situation, she said, adding that it would be challenging for her to find other alternatives. The sale in the past was sufficient to bear expenses at home and to educate her children but now, it would be hard to even meet monthly expenses, she said. 

Though they have heard people saying a vegetable market would be constructed, they did not react to it as they did not receive any official letter in the past, she added. 

“I have lots of clothes in stock and it’s worrisome. If it was for few days I would adjust but, since the duration of the relocation of the market is not sure I don’t know where to keep my stock. If only we were notified from before than I would not have brought the clothes in the first place,” she added.

Another 32 year old vendor Budhi Maya Rai said, “My family has been dependant on this business for the past nine years. We used to earn minimum 2, 000 in a day and though we were allowed to open only thrice a week, it was sufficient to run my family. However, the pandemic affected our business.”

They were allowed to operate their business the whole week due to the pandemic but the income was very minimal whereby sometimes the sale was zero. And the news of having to vacate the area is another nightmare, she added.

She said it would be hard to get a job due to the pandemic and they feel helpless. She said it would be tough to do shopping for her school going children. 

“If we were informed from before we would not have stocked up. The only alternative I see for now is to go door-to-door with my garments and sell it, otherwise it is not possible to go and sell it in other districts due to travel restrictions,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gelephu Thrompon Tikaram Kafley said that they met with all the vendors and assured a new location at the earliest, however, it might take some time as they will have to relocate them very close to town.

He said, “We might have to relocate them a bit far from the town as all the lands in town are privately owned land. Everything has to be well planned and they might have to stay idle until we relocate them.”

The Thrompon said the committee did not inform them officially and the decision would have come as ad hoc but, they knew that a vegetable market is going to come up in that area, he said, and maybe they have not taken care of what was informed before.

“We are equally worried about them because of the pandemic for which we are trying to explore every option as soon as possible. We had to hand over the site as per the tender term to contractor to avoid unnecessary problems in the future,” he added.

The contract amount of the construction of vegetable market is Nu 44.4 mn and is a SDP phase II project funded by GoI. The contract period is one year starting 1 February 2020.  

22 vendors consist of a combination of single mothers and sole bread earners. Vendors have constructed the sheds in 2012 on their own expense.

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