Photo Courtesy: River Boulders from Gelephu Bhutan

Limited boulder export resumes from Samtse and Phuentsholing

The mysterious stoppage of Bhutanese boulder exports to Bangladesh via India has seen some sign of letting up as limited boulder exports at a reduced capacity are happening from Samtse and Phuentsholing.

The General Secretary of Bhutan Exporters Association (BEA) Tshering Yeshey said that Samtse is exporting boulders at 40 percent of its capacity since 5th of October while Phuentsholing is only exporting at around 10 percent of its capacity from 9th October.

Gelephu is still not able to export to Bangladesh so it is exporting into India. 

Tshering said they are still wondering how and why Bhutanese boulder exports got stopped and which government agency in India stopped it.

Tshering said they have a BEA representative in India that went and talked to various authorities in India and India’s Consul General in Phuentsholing was also on board.

He said that while they have managed to resolve the problem to a certain extent for now they have not been able to ‘diagnose’ how the problem occurred.

All that is known is that boulder trucks from Samtse and Phuentsholing were not allowed to ply in West Bengal by the local police there and when they were asked from where the directives came they did not reveal it.

Tshering said the West Bengal police would never do this unless there was some directive.

Normally the West Bengal police works under the directive of the West Bengal state government.

Tshering said that Bhutanese trucks were allowed to ply from 9th October onwards when boulder trucks in West Bengal were also allowed to ply.

“We are not happy even though we are being allowed to export as it is only being done because the restrictions in West Bengal is being lifted. It makes it seem like Bhutan is a part of West Bengal,” said Tshering.

He said that even after the 9th of October there are a lot of checks and hassles.

In the meantime, the boulders from Gelephu that go via Assam into Meghalaya and then Bangladesh are not able to reach Bangladesh.

Tshering said that in Meghalaya a bailey bridge is being built which is not complete as the older bridge was damaged, and the alternate route of the National Highway is being widened which means that Bhutanese trucks cannot head into Bangladesh via Assam and Meghalaya until either one is done.  So boulders from Gelephu are currently being dumped in India.

Tshering said that boulder exports are expected to pick up after the 17th of October as the India-Bangladesh border is currently shut due to the Dusshera and Pooja festivals.

There are also reports that in West Bengal there could be stricter checking on overweight trucks.

Background

It started with a notification from the West Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s office saying that 1st to 8th September will be a road safety awareness week.

Out of consideration of this Bhutanese trucks exporting boulders stopped plying for this time period.

However, from 9th September when Bhutanese exporters wanted to resume exports they were stopped doing so by the West Bengal police.

Bhutanese exporters even offered to take under loaded trucks at 18 tons or less, but even this was not agreed to by the police.

On additional enquiry and after taking up the matter officially the local officials in West Bengal informed their Bhutanese counterparts that there has been a miscommunication.

They said that the West Bengal government had issued a notification stopping the plying of all Indian boulder trucks from 1st September to 1st October so that the tax system can be streamlined for Indian boulder exporters.

This should not have applied for Bhutanese trucks but with no clear direction the West Bengal police also stopped all Bhutanese trucks.

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