Unheard voices of Porters from Gangtok

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Men with small height carrying heavy weight on their back is a common sight on the streets of Gangtok. “Porters” as we call them are indispensable part of life here. They tote heavy luggage of tourists with such an ease that even WWF wrestlers would look them with awe. But soaring price rise is hitting hard to porters who are already surviving on mere wages.

Chakra Badhur Tamang, “gora” as his colleagues fondly calls him hails from West Bengal. He came to Gangtok some 15 years ago following one of his friend form his village.  He moved out in a hope that life would be better and money will be more in Sikkim. He got entry in Porter club easily at Lal Bazaar Taxi stand near Police Headquarters. But hope is an elusive word and these days it is dwindling for Chakra Badhur Tamang.

So do for Krishna Khadka, Phool Badhur, Ramji Chettri all of them working as porter in Gangtok.


A porter can lift weight up to 100 kg on his back

When prices of everything is moving up, rates charged by porters is still stagnant. They are still working on the rates which were prevailing 15 years back. Ganesh, a porter at Ranka stand says “We don’t have any rate card and need to charge as the government asks us to do. But here in Gangtok everything is getting expensive so we want increase in our rates too”.

There is no union for porters to put forth their demands to the government. Absence of a union has left these porters unheard and voiceless. “We want to make our own union but we are not allowed to do so. If we can have one then government will also take us seriously and understand our woes” adds Ganesh.

Shifting of Private Taxi stand to Deorali, a Km away from the main market of Gangtok also affected many porters inside the city. “Earlier we used to earn more than Rs. 300 daily in a tourist season but once the private taxi stand is moved out of the city we are helpless and our income has reduced drastically” says Kamal Dahal, potter at Lal Baazar stand.

Number of tourists visiting Sikkim is also increasing every year. But that has not brought smile for these porters. Most of the tourist hire taxis and so there is no need of porters for carrying their heavy luggage. Local people do sometime take their services but that is not sufficient for them to sustain.

Saving from whatever they earn is the only option these days. “I have not gone to my home for last 3 years. Earlier I used to visit every year. My wife gave birth to a girl and I am desperate to see my daughter’s lovely face. But I need to save money from wherever I can” groan Bimal Tamang from Nepal.

Many porters like Bimal who are from Nepal have not visited their home for last 2 years. They might not be regular in visiting their home but their money does. Baba Badhur is a sole earner and his earnings support his 5 member family. “My family can live without seeing me for 2 years but can not live if i don’t send them money every month. Going home means shelling out 5 thousand in one go. So i save it by not visiting them” says Badhur.

It’s not only price rise and inflation that is burdening the over burdened porters.  They quite often face axe from the police department too. On anonymity one porter told that “Police take us to do their departmental work and don’t even pay for that. We sometimes are forced to dump human and animals dead bodies too”. But they can’t resist as most of the porters are from Nepal. Denying police would even hamper their little opportunities left for earning.

It is beyond doubt that porters are important stakeholders in Sikkim’s tourism industry. A union of porters like travel agent association of Sikkim (TASS) , Sikkim hotel and restaurant association (SHRA) is must for tourism industry itself. This will give them a platform like other associations to raise their demands and help them to improve their living conditions.

Onus is on government to make sure that no party left untouched from the benefits of a booming tourism industry in Sikkim. Porters are one among them.



  • Sonam Wangchuk

    A very good article…its really inhuman when we see fellow humans carrying twice their own weight..even in this age of modernity..and gross exploitation..when we fail to compensate them fairly!
    Although most of the porters are not from Sikkim…but their services are indispensable..with labour shortage from within..it seems porters in rest of the country are better compensated than in Sikkim..
    The least the govt can do is allow unions!

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