Lives in penury


Thimphu has seen a rise in the number of beggars in recent years

It is a sad and lonely life for 60-year-old Gyeltshen.


Though he is from Zamdongkhar Lungsigang, Punakha, he has been begging for years in Thimphu town. A monk, he sits on the streets expecting that passersby will hand him a fare of compassion.

He was a farmer before life fell apart: his wife left him for another man and he turned chronic alcoholic. Soon he left his village for the Capital.

Talking to Business Bhutan, Gyeltshen said there is no one to look after him and he is too old to work.

“Begging is the only option left for survival. I do not steal so I am not ashamed.”

While some people are kind enough to give him money, others scold instead. In a day, if he is lucky, he collects up to Nu 600 otherwise the money he gets is not enough to buy a meal.

With no home or relatives, he stays at the bus terminal.

Sometimes when he is begging, police constables shoo him away.

“Police do not allow us to beg and scold us. They do not understand what we are going through. We are begging because we have no other means to survive.”

Gyeltshen says he does not know what tomorrow holds except for the fact that he will be begging till his last breath.

Tenzin, in his 70s, is another beggar in town who has no alternative sources of income or relatives to look after him.

A few years back, Royal Bhutan Police (RBP)’s Investigation Bureau compiled a report on beggars in Thimphu. Twenty beggars were profiled in a small publication.

The report states that there are two kinds of beggars: habitual and seasonal beggars from villages. The seasonal beggars are mostly Gomchens and nomads. The other segment of beggars is the elderly who stay near the main street and the bridge in Saabji Bazaar.

Over the years, Thimphu has seen a rise in the number of beggars.

According to Thimphu Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee, the RBP has been discouraging begging in town but so far it has not posed serious problems.

“Though begging is not allowed, there is no specific law that prohibits it,” said the Thrompon adding that in the past, cases of beggars in need of attention and support were forwarded to Gyalpoi Zimpon’s office for kidu.

“We look into the details, verify and then send the details to the Gyalpoi Zimpon’s office,” he said.

However, the Thromde has no plans to support beggars, for instance by building shelters.

Chencho Dema from Thimphu