For an hour-long common forum, a team of election officials and party candidates travelled for nine hours to reach Getana in Chukha.
Getana is the most remote gewog in Chukha and the team left Gedu at 11am on September 3 to conduct the common forum at the gewog cente the following day.
The 82km road is blacktopped until Meretsemo but the ride gets bumpy after crossing Badina. After crossing Lhachudoley, the highest point in Getana gewog road, the journey worsens.
Drivers have to negotiate knee-deep mud and huge stones covered in it. Bolero pick-ups grunt in the struggle and end up damaged most of the time.
On the evening of September 3, a bolero pick-up in which the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate of Bongo-Chapcha constituency, Dawa Gyeltshen and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa’s (DPT) candidate Pempa was traveling in broke down. The pick up couldn’t be pushed. They took a lift in Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s (DNT) candidate, Tshewang Lhamo’s vehicle. All were headed for the common forum.
Getana people say the road condition today is far better than what it was a decade ago. Before, people walked eight days from Chungkha to reach Getana. Due to this struggle, many Getana villagers gave up their ancestral homes and settled in Tsimasham and Chukha, people said.
One villager, Lhab Tshering said although he did not see and experience those days of struggle, he said people could at least drive today.
“But it gets difficult in summer,” he said. “The road is in bad shape from Ketokha.” He said he has not seen contractors work in recent days.
A bolero today charges Nu 8,000 from Gedu to Getana. Bolero owners don’t travel often fearing losses.
The department of roads (DoR) is executing the works. There are engineers and excavators on the road but they are also found struggling most of the time.
According to Chukha dzongkhag officials, the base course works have been awarded. Two packages were floated but the same contractor had got the job.
Chukha dzongrab, Sherab Dorji, who was also in the team that conducted the common forum at Getana, said roads department should have camps in the affected areas for better service.
“DoR also can include local people in maintenance work,” he said, adding that certain portions of the gewog road could be given to villagers of a particular area.
Sherab Dorji said people would be happy to help. This would also have villagers take ownership of their road, he added.
Executive engineer with DoR, Neten Tshering said the contractor’s part has been completed. “For whatever is left over, there is no budget,” he said.
Neten Tshering said the DoR office had surveyed, measured, and estimated a new budget considering the importance of carrying out a base course work. This was done after the earlier proposal had focused more on felling of trees and other works.
However, Getana gewog administration decided at the dzongkhag tsogdu that feeling of trees was more important.
“They thought that the road did not receive sunlight and remained moist causing it to get muddy,” Neten Tshering said. “But technically it is wrong and base course was more important.”
The roads engineer also said that other road stretches that were doing fine today after the base course works had similar problems. It was not because of the sunlight problem.
Neten Tshering also said DoR has budget only for maintenance. But it is not even enough, he added.
Today, there are more than 12km of the road that needs base course works. It is at this stretch where vehicles remain stuck for hours.
After the common forum got over on September 4, Lhatu, a villager from Bachhu, Getana said DoR has not benefitted the road works today.
“There are many areas where base course works are not done properly,” he said, adding that villagers had to bear the brunt of daily blockages.
Lhatu said the base course works were done with stones and mud and difficult to ply on when it rains. With large drains dug along the roadside, water easily flows over the road, and villagers are always worried about the problems people would go through during emergencies.
“The road was opened during the DPT tenure, it was maintained during the PDP tenure,” Lhatu said adding that whichever party forms the next government should give priority to the Getana gewog road. “We expect the road to be blacktopped and maintained.”
A health assistant in Getana, Dorji Wangmo said road was the community’s main problem. “We don’t travel often,” she said, adding that whenever she went to Gedu and beyond, she doesn’t feel like returning Getana. “And when I am here, I don’t feel like going anywhere.”
Meanwhile, about 80 people had turned up at the Getana common forum. Bhutan Kyuen-Nyam Party candidate from Bongo-Chapcha constituency did not attend the forum because of a personal reason.
The team then started the journey at 11am from Getana gewog centre. The bolero pick-ups would not have made it to Gedu if it had carried few passengers. It takes more than 20 men to struggle in the mud and use different methods to lift the vehicles out of the muck on the road.
The best method is to push the vehicles, which travel in queue to help each other in need.
Road has been a major requirement in Chukha. During the 11th Plan, Chukha constructed 56 new farm roads running about 284.7km.
Rajesh Rai | Getana