From desperation to tears of relief: Impact of Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the livelihoods of many people in Bhutan. The affected people did not even have enough money to pay their house rent or even buy essential food items. Just when all hope was lost, in came the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu. The Kidu has helped the people to renew their hopes and survive during such desperate times.

“We have been getting calls from some of the beneficiaries asking how they can thank His Majesty The King. People are grateful to His Majesty The King. As soon as they received Kidu, some paid their house rents and bought essential food items,” said an official from the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu Center.

He added, “Although almost everyone is affected by COVID-19. It is important that we understand this as a temporary relief measure to cover basic sustenance.”

The Bhutanese talked with a few of the beneficiaries of Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu Fund. They shared how it has benefited them and how they are grateful to His Majesty.

A single mother living in the heart of the capital, Kumari Timisina, used to run a beauty parlor, opened a few months ago. In the wake of COVID-19, her business dropped drastically with no customers.

She said, “All I could think was to leave the business and go back home. I received lesser and lesser customers, and sometimes there was none. For a month, I managed to collect some money and paid the house rent, but after a month, the business remained the same and I did not have money to even pay the house rent. I tried borrowing money from my close relatives, but their business was affected too.”

She feared going homeless, as she could not find the money to pay the house rent.

“I was on the verge of crying. And just then a message beeped on my phone, and it was from the bank. My account was credited with Nu 8,000. It was the Druk Gyalpo’s Kidu Relief Fund that I had applied for when it was launched. The Kidu came as a blessing from His Majesty and I was very happy. I paid my house rent, and in addition to that the house owner waived off 50 percent of the house rent, as the loan interest for the landlord had been waived off for three months.”

A tour guide living in Paro, Chimi Wangmo, said that the Kidu has come as a respite for three months, and it will give a breathing space for her to look for another job.

“Every sector in the country has been hit very hard, and tourism is no exception. Who would have thought that the country was going to close doors for the outsiders?  Since there was no guest, my only source of income was affected. As the days passed by, there was no sign of reopening of tourism and the situation was getting worse. I had to use my little savings to pay my house rent and get other basic necessities. The only question that was pricking on my mind was, what next after finishing the savings? And if the situation prolongs, I knew my house owner was going to chase me out if I am not able to pay house rent,” she said.

She had plans to leave for her village and help her parents with possible commercial farming, But a major problem was that she was the only person who was earning in the family, and if she did not work then she would not be able to look after her siblings and her parents who depend on her.

“So I made up my mind and started searching for jobs, but with no work experience and low qualification, there was no job for me,” she said.

“In the midst of desperately searching for a job, His Majesty came as a light in the darkness and announced about the Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu. Tears rolled down my eyes after hearing the news from His Majesty, and all I could do was pray for His Majesty’s long life. The Kidu is a blessing and it is going to help me sustain for three months. I can search for a job in these three months. I received Nu 12,000 as a Kidu in the first week of May. I paid my house rent and kept the rest for spending on other essential needs,” added Chimi.

Ugyen Wangmo, 23, another female tour guide shared that she received Nu 12,000 from the Kidu Relief Fund.

“It is a blessing from His Majesty, and I am going to use it wisely. I will use this money for buying essential items and paying my house rent,” she said.

She said that the tourism industry has been affected and it will take time to rebound and the Kidu has come as a respite for the tour guides.

Dechen Tshomo, 24, working with a hotel in Paro said that on 6 March, the first positive case was detected and the border was closed and the tourists left the country. All the hotels in the country, including the one where she worked at, were open but functioning without any guests

The situation got difficult and the hotel was closed. She and her colleagues were paid for only March and then sent home without pay. She used the money to pay her house rent and buy food.

“Now the thing was, how am I going to pay the rent for the next month and buy the essential items?” she said. There was no sign of a house rent waiver by the landlord and she did not have any savings.

“I kept on praying for the situation to get back to normal, but it was only getting worse. I could not sleep or eat properly as I wondered what would happen next. I knew that if I kept on thinking about the situation, it is going to get me into a depression,” she said.

“I don’t have a high academic qualification and lack skills in other lines of work to get a new job. All I could do was to keep praying. And then His Majesty announced about the Kidu. I wept out of relief and happiness. The next day it was launched and I applied for it,” added Dechen.

She said that she is now going to engage herself in farming and wait till the situation gets back to normal and the businesses rebound.

“In the first week of May, an amount of Nu 12,000 was deposited in my account and it was from Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu. This Kidu is going to help me survive for at least three months, and in between, I will engage myself in commercial farming,” she added.

A taxi driver, Kinzang, is one of the beneficiaries of Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu.

He said that transportation sector has also been hit by the COVID-19.

He said there were no passengers using the taxi services due to the fear during the first case outbreak. He said people are scared to come out from their homes, and even now there is less movement of people.

He said the new rule of carrying only two passengers made it harder for him to generate an income, though this was a good initiative from the government as it will be safer for both the driver and the passengers.

“However, it affected my income. I am the only person earning in the family, and I have kids to look after and I have to pay house rent and a loan. I did not have any other option than waiting for the situation to rebound, but there was no sign.  And finally a big relief came from His Majesty as the loan was deferred, and the Kidu was launched,” he said, adding that he is very grateful and he will keep providing his services to the nation.

The Druk Gyalpo’s Relief Kidu was launched on 14 April. The current full amount is Nu 12,000 per month and Nu 8,000 for those on partial payment.

However, if the current situation continues beyond the three months, and more people have to be supported, then the amount will be gradually reduced.

The Kidu program will also provide people with the option to work in certain sectors by taking their information, willingness to work and area of interest, so it can be aligned with the government’s upcoming  stimulus programs.

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