SANGAY RABTEN | Thimphu
Truckers ferrying goods from Phuentsholing to other parts of the country are facing hardships after the closure of restaurants at Sorchen – a vital stopover for them.
The makeshift restaurants were ordered to stop operation from 10 February as per a notification issued by the Southern COVID-19 Task Force (SC19TF). Since then the drivers have been staying in temporary shelters made of tarpaulin sheets.
Truckers say the decision of SC19TF has hampered the work of transporting goods, even though it has come as strategies to stop the spread of coronavirus. They add that they are suffering without proper meals and a place to lodge at night.
Even though truck drivers are doing their best to supply essential items, many of them are unhappy with the decision of SC19TF. Desperate, they requested the task force to at least allow a few restaurants to operate but no actions have been taken so far.
Another major problem the truck drivers are facing is taking care of their shelters which they say are prone to wild animal attacks, apart from miscreants stealing their belongings.
One of the truck drivers Namgay said that after the closure of the restaurants they don’t have a proper place to eat and sleep and that they have no basic amenities like firewood, water, and electricity which they fetch from nearby places.
Namgay said it is not much of a problem during the dry season but is worried about the upcoming monsoons which might hamper their stay in the temporary shelters.
He said there were no positive cases reported from the locality despite keeping the restaurants operational, and that the businesses should have been allowed to operate until the end of the pandemic.
Namgay said, “The authorities should recognize that the restaurant owners of Sorchen are also frontline servers as they came forward to serve the public while many others stepped back fearing the virus.”
Another driver, Zila said the decision of SC19TF has brought suffering to the drivers who are also serving the nation in times of need by transporting and supplying essential items throughout the country.
“With the closure of the restaurants at Sorchen roadside, we have to set up our own camps and manage our own rations which are inconvenient. In addition, there are no shops located nearby to buy rations and we have to ferry it from distant places or arrange it through our friends and family.”
The truckers wish the authorities to understand their plight and at least allow a few restaurants and shops to operate in the area. Many added that they have strictly abided with the protocols levied on them and that there have been no reports of any breach to date.
Another driver Sonam Thinley who had been ferrying goods from Phuenstholing said that carrying goods from the site has become difficult after the closure of the restaurants. “There is not even a proper place to eat and sleep and many of us are moving to other districts or localities,” he said and now he left to Nganglam site.
He said that allowing roadside restaurants to operate has no effect on the country rather it was helping to solve the problems. He said, “The government of the day says it will look public affairs but it is either postponed or neglected where it is needed.”
During the pandemic, drivers are most helpful citizens carrying goods to meet the country’s needs but he said, “We are left unrecognized.”
Chencho, also a trucker, said the authority should look at bringing a holistic approach and reconsider the decision to open roadside restaurants. “If not, the authorities could at least provide us with provisions for safe drinking water,” he said.
Hundreds of drivers transporting goods from Sorchen gate to other parts of the country had been facing these problems for months on end.
However, despite making complaints and urging the authorities to heed their calls, there seems to be no respite at near sight for these truckers.