Save for a not-so-distant reaction to be pre-empted from the Taxi community, the Business sector should stand appeased for now as the government has taken into account a fair share of their Pedestrian day proposal.
The BCCI Secretary General, Phub Tshering said the private sector’s submission was clearly to provide alternatives and not oppose the rule.
“It has to be very clear that we have not opposed the principles of the pedestrian day but it is about how practical it can be and I think the solution chosen by the government is the most practical one for everybody including the general public,” he said.
The cabinet decided at its 146th meeting that Pedestrian Day will be observed on the first Sundays of each month beginning December 2, 2012.
The major change made to the six- month old pedestrian day rule apart from the decision to observe it once a month is, taxis will not be allowed to ply on the day and in addition the pedestrian day rule shall also apply on 5 June observed as World Environment day.
“This decision was taken in close consultation with the people and having taken the views of the general public,” a press release from the cabinet secretariat stated. However, the decision came after a meeting between the business community and members of the cabinet last week when the private sector among other issues submitted three recommendations to the government with regard to the pedestrian day.
The first option was to do away with the pedestrian day all together and have the rule abolished. The second was to observe it annually and the last to observe it on the first Sunday of every month. While the government said they would probably consider the last option, it appears the cabinet has decided to concede the last two submissions since the day will be observed once every month as well as on June 5 of every year.
The general public was divided in their opinion about the rule from day one and some cited serious inconveniences which of course couldn’t be documented. However, the private sector refused to adapt to the rule and went to the extent of considering a silent protest if the government did not pay heed. The business community along with Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) came up with their own study and findings with regard to the adverse effect of the rule on businesses and the economy as a whole and submitted in writing, their views on pedestrian day.
The enforcement of the rule came under public criticism mainly because no consultation was carried out with the people.
During the meet last weekend, Agriculture minister Dr Pema Gyamtsho argued the positive impact of the pedestrian day outweighed the inconvenience and cost borne by the public. In what sounded like a geography class, the minister tried to enlighten businessmen about climate change and provided technical details on the subject in response to the long continued hue and cry of the private sector.
The agriculture minister further said “we may not be able to measure the benefits immediately but we will see significant benefits with time.” He attributed diseases arising from pollution to the increased number of vehicles in the country for there are not much factories in Bhutan.
He said the main issue is the mental attitude of Bhutanese people who wish to drive a car each and refrained from using public transport. “Additional city buses have been deployed in the city but elicited little interest from the public and pedestrian subways are being misused,” he said.
Plus and Minus for everyone
With the new turn on the pedestrian day curve most business houses will cease to crib and complain but at the same time hundreds of government drivers will be deprived of their free time on Tuesdays to drive their taxis.
However, law enforcing police personnel need no longer be stationed at every exit or entry points every Tuesday and people don’t have to drive before eight in the morning or drive home only after six in the evening or walk in hordes to work.
Taxis will not be seen speeding around in the core town areas on Tuesdays and students attendance at schools will be much more regular as on any other day of the week.