Back to the dark-age?

Restaurants owners using kerosene lamp

Sorchen roadside restaurateurs are denied electricity and permission to operate their businesses 

SANGAY RABTEN 

Thimphu

After being denied to operate their businesses, restaurant owners of Sorchen are now literally living in the dark after their electricity supply lines were cut-off last month.

The families of these restaurant operators have been living without electricity for more than a month after the Bhutan Power Corporation Limited (BPCL) office at Gedu snapped their lines on 18 February.  

From the eight restaurant owners who came from Phuentsholing to Sorchen to serve truck drivers after an official permission, three owners had left the place after the Gedu Covid-19 Task Force notified them to vacate the place by 13 February. 

The remaining families are now lighting kerosene lamps at night and goes to Kamji to recharge their phones while they use firewood for cooking. 

The five restaurant owners have written an application to the Gedu Covid-19 Task Force to at least provide them electricity. 

A restaurant owner Passang Lhamo said some of the owners could not vacate the place as they have nowhere to go. “We are even denied basic needs-like electricity. Common people are made to suffer,” she said. 

Sangay Wangmo said that there was no community transmission from Sorchen and the positive cases were from the drivers who came from Thimphu. She said that there was no situation where restaurants should be closed during other times except during the lockdown. “We are even deprived of light which makes life difficult.” 

The owners said there is no response from the Task Force despite having sent numerous appeal letters. Sangay AWangmo said that they will not open their hotels until the authorities ask them to do so and will abide by Covid-19 protocols.

Another resident Pema Yangden said that from eight business individuals, only people without any options are left behind and that they aren’t demanding anything except for basic amenities like electricity.

“It has become a nightmare for us to live here but we have no other alternatives,” she said, adding the authorities have been very indifferent to their sufferings.

Geling Gup Kinley Dorji said the gewog administration had raised the issue with the GC19TF and SC19TF.  

The National Council representative of Chhukha Dzongkhag, Sangay Dorji, said that considering their dire situation he has proposed to GC19TF members to review the matter. 

The sub-division manager of BPCL in Gedu, Ugyen Tobgay, said that BPCL will immediately reconnect the power line after it receives a notification letter from the office of SC19TF but could do nothing prior to this.

The Alternate Incident Commander of GC19TF, Tshering Penjor, also said that the decision should come from Gedu Covid-19 Task Force members. 

Meanwhile, Sangay Thinley, the Economic Development Officer who is also a member of GC19TF, said the team will visit the site today. He said the team will assess the situation and reconnect their power supplies after reaching a consensus.