With a very contrasting landscape, Bhutan shares ethnic and religious connections ancient dynasties of Sikkim. Bhutanese were led freely to enter Sikkim, a state in the northeastern part of India till now but Bhutanese have to pay the permit fee.
Bhutanese who visited Sikkim recently shared that the Sikkim government has started to collect fees from the Bhutanese. People of Bhutan mostly visit Sikkim to attend Buddhist rituals and for religious tours.
The office of the Regional Transport Office for South and West Transport Department, Motor Vehicle Department had started to collect fees from Bhutanese, driving vehicles to Sikkim.
The government collects Rs 100 per vehicle per day from Bhutanese vehicle owners at Rangpo gate. The visitors have to deposit the amount through the State Bank of Sikkim located nearby the checkpoint and have to show the money receipt at the check post.
The cash memo is issued as a temporary permit in terms of section 87(1) of the Central Motor Vehicle Act, 1988. The temporary permit grants the vehicles to enter the state after noting the name of the vehicle drivers or owners with the address and vehicle number. Later, a copy of the revenue receipt is issued to the visitors by the bank which is the tax on motor vehicles.
One of the Bhutanese transport operators who visited the neighbouring Indian state, Leki said that treatment towards Bhutanese visitors had changed recently. He visited Sikkim on February 3 taking about 15 Bhutanese pilgrims. He paid Rs 200 for two days as motor vehicle tax.
He said that treatment from Sikkim towards Bhutanese has changed now. Leki said no parking fees were collected from Bhutanese. Rs 100 is collected for vehicle parking fees and Rs 250 as an entry fee at Buddha Park of Ravangla. He said, “there were no parking and entry fees for Bhutanese before.”
Bhutanese visitors to Sikkim shared that the officials check Identity Cards and the entry procedure at the checkpoint takes time. They are being informed by the locals that officials are conducting meetings and the tax amount may increase.
Other than Nepal and Bhutan nationals, all foreigners require a passport with an Indian visa prior to arrival. Visitors require an Inner Line Permit (ILP) to enter Sikkim.
An ILP is valid for 15 days and can be extended by the state government twice for 30 days each. The ILP represents the Indian government’s efforts to control access to particular areas close to its international boundary.
Sangay Rabten from Phuentsholing