Seven workshops vacate Olakha automobile workshop premises, workers face uncertain future

Seven workshops are vacating their workshop premises in Olakha, Thimphu following a Supreme Court verdict in July of last year to leave the building they are occupying within six months. The building owners and workshop owners were in a long standing legal battle regarding an increment in rent since 2019.

The Supreme Court verdict also implicated building owners of illegal rent increase and asked them to refund over three million ngultrum to the workshop owners.

The workshop owners dismantled their structures and the existing vehicles and parts kept on repair were moved last week.

According to workshop owners, they appealed to the Thimphu Thromde in 2019 after rents became unaffordable. The case then reached the Supreme court.

Owner of TEE DEE Auto Works, Tshering Dorji says he is currently paying Nu 106,000 in rent. He was initially asked to pay Nu 80,000.

“The owner told me to vacate the building, if I cannot pay rent,” said Tshering Dorji.

Another workshop owner, Kuenzang said ‘‘we had issues since 2012. The issue was that most of their land was taken by land pooling and the rent was increased in the same year.”

The owner added the case was settled after the then Thrompon intervened but the rent issue resurfaced again in 2017.

Aggrieved proprietor of Pelbar Automobile, Sonam Choden says, in 2017 her rent was increased between 35% to 45%, which was not as per the Tenancy Act.

Sonam added that prior to 2017, her rents were increased by 10% every two years according to the Tenancy Act.

However, building owners say they did not increase the rent and rather they wanted to renovate and maintain their building.

Kinley who owns of the the buildings in the Olakha automobile workshop area says he increased rent as per the Tenancy Act.

“I have no issues regarding rent with him. We have an agreement saying that he will shift his workshop and handover the building but refused to do so” says Kinley.

Kinley then appealed to the Thimphu Thromde and ultimately leading to the Supreme Court.

Another building owner, Kinga says he gave the workshop building to his children as their share and they wanted to renovate the building.

“I have issued a notification to vacate the premises. But they requested me saying they want another five years and were willing to pay the increased rent” said Kinga.

“We have not increased the rent to an amount that they cannot pay” he added.

Meanwhile, with no where to go for the seven workshops, more than 150 people working in these workshops face an uncertain future.

Pema Singye who does denting works with the Sangay Automobiles says he is worried about what he will do next.

“Do we stay with the same workshop or look for another job? Where do we work? How do we do it? We are concerned” said Pema.

Another worker, Karma Rinzin who is a mechanic with TEE DEE Auto Works said “we will also face difficulty in supporting our families. It is difficult to find a job.”

“We have one but now we have lost it. We don’t know what to do” added Karma Rinzin.

While Chimi Dorji of Pelbar Workshop is worried about how his workshop owners will be able to pay him now that they have no place to work from.

The automobile workshop area in Olakha has over 150 workshops employing over 1500 people.

Karma Wangdi

Edited by Sherub Dorji

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