Running vegetable vendors

The other day I bumped into a vegetable vendor along Norzin Lam. She carried a basket of fresh saag and was obviously in a hurry. She wouldn’t sell me any.

But I convinced her to stop for a while, and discovered that she was actually running away from City Corporation officials. These officials, she told me, would seize her basket and fine her Nu 500 for selling vegetables illegally.

Today I met another group of vendors. They are from Wangduephodrang, and travel to Thimphu two to three times a week by taxi to sell fresh farm vegetables. The vegetables are mostly from their own farms.

They didn’t seem to be too worried and even displayed some of their vegetables (damdroo, saag, ola choto and spring onions). I asked them about the City Corporation officials and they said that between 1PM to 3PM they are generally safe – that’s about time the officials have their lunch break! Otherwise, they would be on the run. Some have had their entire stock, complete with baskets, confiscated by city officials, and slapped hefty fines as well.

All that our farmers want is a small opportunity to sell their produce. But existing city rules forbid them from setting up shop along the streets – it adds to the garbage, they say. And in the process, we, urban dwellers, are deprived of fresh farm vegetables during the weekdays.

This is not a new issue. The struggle between the vendors and city officials has been going on for years. This absurd contest, played out in Thimphu’s main street everyday, must end.

We can’t end it forcefully. Not as long as we have enterprising farmers on the one hand, and eager urban buyers on the other. So support the informal enterprises. And regulate them. Allow vegetable vendors on designated parts of Norzin Lam. And if we must, charge them the little money required to clean up each day.

More importantly, the government should address such small issues that go a very long way to discourage farm productivity and dampen entrepreneurship.

And oh, in Thimphu, very few people visit the Sabji Bazaar during the weekdays. What we and our farmers need is small “sunday market” closer to the city centre where we can buy vegetables during the weekdays, without bumping into escaping vendors.


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  1. Dear OL,

    Any progress to report on this issue?

    With Thanks

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