NPPF colony residents refuse to vacate despite notification

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National Pension and Provident Fund (NPPF) in Phuentsholing has forwarded the case of 29 tenants in its colony commonly known as RICBL colony refusing to vacate their flats to the Dispute Settlement Committee (DSC) of Phuentsholing Thromde for arbitration.

Despite repeated notices served, these tenants are still occupying the flats refusing to vacate. They were supposed to vacate by December 2017 after signing an undertaking letter agreeing to vacate.

An NPPF official said that the tenants were served notice to vacate in 2016 being non-contributors to the provident fund scheme. The tenants are mostly composed of private employees, retired civil servants and businessmen and widows among others. Some have also reportedly sublet to others.

Regional Head with NPPF Tshering Gyeltshen said that initially, 37 tenants refused but after the case was forwarded to the Thromde, seven agreed to comply and the other 30 cases were forwarded to the court. The reason according to the Tshering Gyeltshen is lack of housing in the town. “But that’s vague,” he said.

The residents including drivers mostly remain out of town and the officials suggested them to shift to other places wherever they are comfortable. “It’s not necessary for them to stay in Phuenstholing knowing that there is housing crunch,” said Tshering Dorji. Also, some of the flats remain closed for more than a month. People have occupied the flats for years now.

With an average rent of Nu 3,000 for the flats, the official says that it has become convenient for them to continue occupying. The rent in Phuentsholing core town is above Nu 5,000 for a single room and residing in Jaigaon, an Indian town is less preferred.

But for others, there is a genuine reason, according to the Regional Head as there are cases of devastation at villages and limited income. “Some excuses are genuine. But we have to abide by the law,” he said. “There are options for these people to settle elsewhere but they have refused.”

NPPF rents out the flats to the people. They have been so far renting to the active members who are contributing to the provident fund. Once vacate, the flats will be allotted to the active members of NPPF.

But the tenants have their own story to share. Sixty-year-old Karma Dorji has been living in the colony for more than 30 years now. He has lived here since his service in State Trading Corporation of Bhutan Limited. Now the pensioner is worried about his next house. But the thought of finding an affordable house has been haunting him. He is now planning to shift to Jaigaon. “We are paying the fixed rent and I see no reason to vacate,” he said accepting the fact that NPPF is obliged to follow the rule. “But some rules need to be relooked into for the benefit of the people.”

Yeshey Dorji, 42, another tenant has a son studying in Phuentsholing Higher Secondary School. A driver by profession, he is planning to shift within the town but has not found any vacant flats. “Since my son has to complete his education, I have to stay here. We are facing difficulty in getting house within Bhutan as most of the buildings are turned into hotels,” he said.

The tenants have also approached the Prime Minister regarding the case.

Meanwhile, the Thromde DSC’s Chairman said that the Thromde had to forward the case without any resolution as the tenants keep on asking for extension which was already given by NPPF. Uttar Kumar Rai, Phuentsholing Thrompon, who is also Chairman of the committee said despite efforts from the committee, the case could not be resolved. “The tenants deliberately skipped the meetings which we held to settle the case,” he said.  The team after verifying the case has found that that there are not many genuine cases which merits extension.

NPPF plans to allot the flats to active contributing members who are not staying in the colony.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing