Dzongkhags along the border shared how encouraging it is to see local communities coming forward to take up the responsibility in fighting COVID-19. They shared the communities are cooperative in following the recently implemented rules, such as the 7 pm shop closure rule, and also help in contributing vegetables and their services as volunteers.
The community volunteers help RBP, RBA, foresters and other volunteers in carrying out the border patrols. The communities also play a vital role in information sharing, whereby many people who had entered the community after hiding their travel history were revealed to the authorities and so could be placed under home quarantine.
Samtse Dzongda, Sonam Wangyel, said that in general, they have the full support and volunteers from every community. “They have been working hard since day one, and they are still busy with their assigned duties within their communities,” said the Dzongda.
“They have been engaged in constructing infrastructure sheds for RBP wherever it is needed. We instruct them to help as and when there is a need. Other than that, they have been patrolling along the border. Deployment of community volunteers for security purpose is done in cooperation with the RBP. We help the volunteers with necessary facilities and services,” he said.
Local people are also cooperative and are always ready to comply with rules. The 7 pm rule has been followed strictly, the Dzongda said. However, there are one or two people who fail to do because they fail to understand the associated risks, he added.
Sarpang Dzongda, Karma Galay, shared that it is encouraging to see communities coming together to combat COVID-19. He said they are cooperative and they have around 1,500 volunteers in the dzongkhag.
“The volunteers share information with us on a daily basis. They do patrolling in their respective community and they sensitize the people. They have become more responsible now,” the Dzongda added.
The community volunteers are mostly deployed in the security segment to help RBP, foresters and DeSuups along the border. Apart from that, they come forward in unloading essential goods of the Food Corporation of Bhutan.
The Sarpang Dzongda said, “I am happy to say that with the help of community volunteers, we could get hold of a few smugglers who were smuggling tobacco products along the border. Also, we could put 15 people under home quarantine after verifying their information from the community.”
He said there are 10 gewogs are along the border and the gewog vehicles are used for transportation purposes. They have not faced any issue as of today. “The community volunteers have been effective,” said the Dzongda.
Chukha Dzongrab, Sherab Dorji, said, “Communities were always supportive since day one. We have 850 gewog volunteers from 11 gewogs. They were advised to patrol respective communities and to inform the dzongkhag if anything suspicious happens. They were also made to do border patrolling.”
However, he said that after additional DeSuups in Phuentsholing for border patrolling and other purposes, the community volunteers were withdrawn from border patrolling. They were advised to continue supporting their community.
“People from Chapcha and Shemagangkha have volunteered to contribute vehicles for use if the country goes into a lockdown, for transportation purpose,” he said.
Samdrupjongkhar Dzongda, Tharchin Lhendup, shared that Friends of Police (FoP) and community volunteers are working equally hard to combat COVID-19 and they have been always helpful.
They patrol the border along with other volunteers, and at times, they were asked to patrol their own community. He said, “They keep an eye on people’s moment in and out of their community, and to see if anyone is entering our country through illegal routes. They sensitize people on social distancing.”
In addition, he also said that people are cooperative, and adapt to whatever rules are being implemented. “They seem to be well informed which is why there is not a single report of people failing to comply the rules,” he said.
With support from all the volunteers, he said, “We are able to secure the porous border to our best, without much of an issue.”