Citing the recent incident of two Bhutanese trucks set on fire by an agitated mob in Assam after one truck ran over a student, the Bomdeling Jamkhar MP questioned the government on what it was doing to work out a long term solution to the persistent problems faced by Bhutanese motorists on Indian highways.
MP Duptho said that Bhutanese vehicles are stopped at various places and charged with illegal tax and harassed during times of motor crashes.
Communications minister D. N Dhungyel said that despite strong diplomatic relations between the two countries Bhutanese motorists have encountered problems on the Indian highways of Assam and Bengal.
The minister said that most Bhutanese load carrying vehicles are stopped at Srirampur on the border of Assam and Bengal and are made to pay huge sums of money. “But major problems are experienced during the time of accidents,” Lyonpo said.
He said that Bhutan conducts the Border Districts Coordination Meeting (BDCM) annually in Assam and Bengal to resolve and address the problem faced by the people of the two countries.
District Level Coordination Meetings is conducted annually within the level of the home secretary of the two countries. Quarterly meetings at the level of the Dzongda and District Magistrate, in coordination with Sashtra Seema Bal (SSB), is also conducted.
Recently, a spokesperson from Jalpaiguri Transport Authority was called to Bhutan to talk on the road safety and rule of the Indian highways, lyonpo said.
Foreign minister Damchoe Dorji said that such problems will occur and such problems cannot be done away with completely.
He said that people are of the opinion that a solution is building an internal highway connecting all the southern dzongkhags. “Building roads within Bhutan will require clearing of thick forest along the border where serious problem even worse than what is encountering today on the Indian highway would occur,” he said.
The foreign minister said that the most evident example is a small stretch road between Sarpang and Gelephu where a lot of kidnapping, extortions, robbery etc., cases was reported over the years. “Sarpang –Gelephu road is within Bhutan only, yet such crimes occur from that area,” he said.
Lyonpo said that even if the government built such a road in the future, people would still chose to travel on Indian highway. He said that problems like motor accidents will happen and during such time the ministry of home immediately contacts the Indian counterpart to resolve the problem.
Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that it is because of coordination and collaboration between two counties that the Bhutanese today can travel on Indian highway with occasional problems. “We can only lessen the problem but we cannot get rid of it completely,” he said.