Vendors at the new integrated vegetable market in Phuentsholing are unhappy with the electricity bills that they have paid recently to the operator.
The bill amount has reached Nu 630,000 since July. The amount is inclusive of penalty for delaying the payment to Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC). After division, each vendor at the vegetable counter had to pay Nu 1,250 per head for four months. But the heaviest payment fell on meat vendors who had to pay Nu 23,700 per slot. Every slot is however, divided for two vendors and the amount payable was Nu 11,850 per vendor which they said was huge to bear.
The vendors accused the vegetable market operator for excluding the electric bills from the monthly rent which they pay to the operator. There are 21 designated slots for meat vendors. Due to delay in the bill payment, BPC had disconnected the electric supply to the market for two days recently.
The operator, Pema Dorji started work after signing contract with the Phuentsholing Thromde from July. If the vendors had paid on time, every vendor would have to pay around Nu 350 per month.
But the vendors also alleged the operator for not collecting the bill on time. “They don’t come on time and now we are charged including penalty,” a vendor said.
Without submeter for individual slots, the vendors are asking for individual meters to assure fairness.
Meanwhile, the operator has cleared half the amount to BPC recently after the electricity was disconnected.
Still two meat slots are closed for not paying bills to the operator. Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) also seized some meat during the power shutdown.
The vendors said that some fans and bulbs at the top floor are kept on for the whole day and the amount is divided between them. They use deep fridge to store meat and one fluorescent bulb and a fan which is shared by two vendors.
They said that they were asked to pay the bill in September; each vendor was asked to pay Nu 7,500 for a month. Since the amount was huge for the vendors, most of them have not paid the amount since then. “Had we been given an individual meter for every slot, we would not have such problems. How can we survive if our earning goes into electric bills?” another vendor said.
Before, when the market was operated by Thromde, they paid Nu 750 as electric bill for using machines to install tiles at the shop counter. Those who paid the bills are yet to receive the money receipt. They are also not charged on monthly basis.
Meanwhile, operator Pema Dorji said that the vendors have refused to pay the bills after misunderstanding. Since he started operating, the vendors had thought the bill is included in the rent which is not true.
He is however collecting the amount from the vendors. He said that he has explained to the vendors and is hopeful that he will finish collecting the amount which will be then paid to BPC. Apart from the electric bill, the operator still has to collect rent form 33 vendors. “They don’t understand the situation and blame the operator,” he said. He said that the electricity connection was cut off for those who have not paid the bills. Pema Dorji pays Nu 500,000 per month as lease to Phuentsholing Thromde. He started operating the vegetable market from July, this year.
Krishna Ghalley from P/Ling