Over thousand Bhutanese trucks stranded along the Indo – Bangladesh border

BEA assured that the problem would ease from today

Around 1,500 Bhutanese trucks carrying boulders from Bhutan to Bangladesh have been stranded in Changrabandha in India and Banglabandha along the Indo-Bangladesh border.

The trucks have been there for more than a week after having difficulty to get into Bangladesh.

Bhutanese trucks carrying boulders enter Bangladesh through three Indo-Bangladesh borders.

     The trucks, according to the owners, were stopped by Bangladeshi importers after they refused to buy the products from India and Bhutan. The Bangladeshi Importers, after forming a group, have taken the step to bring down the price of Bhutanese boulders as the price of Indian boulders to Bangladesh has reduced with increase in 2 USD.

The increased tax has lowered the floor price of Indian boulders and the Bangladeshi exporters are demanding the Bhutanese boulders at the same price. Boulders from Bhutan to Bangladesh fetch USD 18 per Metric Ton (MT).

“If calculated our product still is cheaper,” Tshering Yeshi, the Secretary General of the Bhutan Exporters Association (BEA) said. Bhutanese exporters pay 180 Taka per MT as miscellaneous tax. Meanwhile, Indian exporters pay 398 Taka as tax which lowered the price.         

However, the truck owners are worried for how long their vehicles would be stranded. The Bhutanese trucks were stopped from the last week of April. If the trucks remain stranded for more than three days, the truck owners are sure to encounter loss.

Around 25 trucks of boulders of Kuenchab Export in Phuentsholing are still stranded.

Binod Thapa, the manager of the company, said the trucks were there since April 26. He hopes that the issues would be resolved soon and the boulders would be let in to flow into Bangladesh.

“Our flows have been disturbed causing loss to the company and the owners,” he said.

Similarly, Sonam Jamtsho, another truck owner, is equally worried as he has seven trucks stranded along the border. “In fact, it’s a problem between India and Bangladesh to negotiate the rate. But we are impacted a lot,” he said. He added that he would face problem in loan repayment as he has loans while buying the vehicles.

The Vice Chairman of the Truckers Association of Bhutan (TAB), Tshewang Rinzin, said the Bangladeshi agents have asked the Bhutanese boulder suppliers to lower the price, while the latter have refused.

“When our boulders were accepted then they started blocking the way for our trucks,” he said.

The Vice Chairman said more people have opted to buy trucks, mostly 10 wheelers, knowing the scope to earn through boulders export. But they have failed as only four trips are done in a month due to similar reasons. 

Meanwhile, BEA has intervened and assured the truckers that they would be allowed to cross the border by today.

BEA’s Secretary General Tshering Yeshi said the association has negotiated with the stakeholders involving Bangladeshi trade officials and port authorities and Indian stakeholders to open the route.

He said the stranded trucks along Changrabandha and Fulbari will be allowed into Bangladesh.

“It has been confirmed that the entry points to Bangladesh will be opened from Saturday,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Bangladeshi importers have also requested BEA to lower the boulder price, while the association is resolute on it.

BEA has also requested for traffic for trade without any hindrance, which was accepted by the Bangladeshi counterparts.  With trucks stranded because of the blockade, not many trucks have moved to Bangladesh in the past few days, according to TAB’s Vice Chairman. However, trucks ferrying stone chips have not been stopped as of now.

Pic courtesy; theshillongtimes.com

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing