Transport operators in Bhutan see the Delhi-initiated Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicle agreement a major obstacle to their livelihood as the country’s the government is looking again to push the deal through Parliament. The operators, fearful of competition from foreign vehicles once the deal is signed, say that Indian trucks are already competing with local trucks to carry goods between points in Bhutan.
The Bhutanese National Council (NC), the upper house of the parliament, in November last year, rejected to ratify the BBIN deal, while the other three nations involving in the agreement has already okayed it. During a parliamentary hearing, a member of the NC Sonam Dorji said, “With the motor vehicle agreement, we will be allowing foreign vehicles on our already small and cramped roads.” “We cannot risk our environment and security in exchange for little economic development.”
According to the Truckers’ Association of Bhutan (TAB), Indian trucks have been carrying coal and clinkers from Nganglam in Pemagatshel to Gomtu, Gelephu and Phuentsholing. Indian truckers are also competing with Bhutanese counterparts to transport the same goods from Samdrupjongkhar to the industrial towns.
Both the points of loading and unloading are within Bhutanese territory.
A TAB representative BB Tamang told the Bhutanese online news outlet Kuensel that, the government should not allow foreign trucks to carry goods between points in Bhutan. Indian trucks can transport goods from their country to Bhutan but cannot pick up goods from Bhutan to be delivered within Bhutan.
Another truck operator said that trucks from the neighboring states of India have affected their business. “Often we don’t get work because of competition from Indian trucks,” he said.
The truckers’ association also wants the government to sort out other issues like harassment of Bhutanese drivers and truckers while plying in India.
Truckers say that owners of most of the Bhutanese cars that get destroyed in conflicts in Indian states do not get compensation. They say that the main challenge for Bhutanese drivers who encounter problems in India is dealing with authorities there.
These sorts of problems, they say, have been happening for a long time in West Bengal, Assam, and the Bangladesh border area. They say they often face harassment while crossing checkpoints in India.