For a long time, the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs (MoHCA) has been implementing Bhutan’s citizenship and census laws whereby non citizens or those without proper census get different types of temporary identification documents that have to be renewed every year or for six months at a time. These documents are used mainly for travelling on the road.
However, due to a lack of coordination these same temporary documents, with validity of up to one year, were accepted by the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) over the years to give vehicle licenses valid for up to 10 years.
The vehicle licenses are not so much the problem as the fact that these legally valid vehicle licenses were being used for other ID card like purposes in the absence of an actual CID card.
This discrepancy was first noted by officials in the MoHCA who communicated the anomaly to the RSTA.
As a result the RSTA is no longer issuing 10 year long vehicle licenses for those without CID cards and are instead issuing temporary vehicle licenses that have to be renewed along with the temporary ID documents.
The temporary vehicle licenses have validity from around one year to six months depending on the ID document.
These people who get these temporary vehicle licenses are hold route permits and those whose census are under process with the civil registration under Ministry of Home and Cultural affairs.
“The license card is very expensive and it is sustainable if the validity is long. So it is for 10 years normally so repeated expenditure is avoided. After every 10 years we need to update the records,” said Lham Dorji, Director General of RSTA.
“When it comes to the permit holders we have to issue the license because they also have to drive their vehicles but only based on the document they have,” he added.
While the RSTA is implementing the laws of the land there have also been some concerns expressed by those affected by this rectification.
The main concern among the route permit holders is that since they will have to renew their license every few months it might become inconvenient for those who stay away from the capital.
Bhakti, a 25 year old resident from Thimphu said, “It is quite disappointing to know that I have to renew my license while my friend although being a permit holder has a 10 years valid driving license. The difference of time between our driving tests was just weeks.”
The DG of RSTA clarified that all licenses are issued based on CID documents. He said a person has to prove that he or she is a genuine Bhutanese citizen. If one is under process of naturalization then the issuance is accordingly.
“We are only allowed to give the 10 year license to only Bhutanese citizens. If we have to give it to others then they have to show something based on which we can issue permits be it work permit, route permit or visa. If the permit is for 1 or 2 years it doesn’t make sense to provide a driving license for 10 years” he said.
A senior official from the Ministry of Information and Communication said that initially when this issue came to light there was a possibility of such people not even getting the temporary vehicle licenses. He said because as per the rules RSTA does not allow the issuance of driving license to people without the citizenship documents.
However, with the intervention from the ministry the RSTA worked out a system of giving temporary vehicle licenses that have to be renewed.