Some Bhutanese who visited Sikkim last month had to pay vehicle permit fees at the Rangpo police gate. Business Bhutan also had learned that the fees were collected by an official of the Regional Transport Office for South and West Transport Department, Motor Vehicle Department, Sikkim.
However, an official from the same department clarified to the paper that the fees were collected inadvertently by a newly posted official at the site. The matter had reached the office of the Transport Secretary, Sikkim. The official further mentioned that the government of Sikkim had not taken any decision to collect entry fees from Bhutanese vehicles entering the state.
In an earlier incident, INR 100 per vehicle per day was collected from Bhutanese vehicle owners at Rangpo gate. The visitors had to deposit the amount at the State Bank of Sikkim, located nearby the checkpoint, and had to show the money receipt at the checkpoint and to the police.
The cash memo was issued as a temporary permit in terms of Section 87(1) of the Central Motor Vehicle Act, 1988. The temporary permit grants the vehicles permission to enter the state after noting the name of the vehicle’s driver or owner, their address, and the vehicle number. The bank then issues a copy of the revenue receipt, which is tax on motor vehicles to visitors.
Bhutanese visitors shared to the paper that the Sikkim government has started to collect fees from Bhutanese. People from Bhutan mostly visit Sikkim to attend Buddhist rituals and for religious tours.
Meanwhile, Leki, a Bhutanese transport operator who visited the State, had said that treatment towards Bhutanese visitors had changed recently. He visited Sikkim on 3 February taking about 15 Bhutanese pilgrims. He paid Rs 200 for two days as motor vehicle tax.
While no parking fees were collected earlier, Leki said parking fees were collected from Bhutanese. “Vehicle parking fees of Rs 100 are collected, and an entry fee of Rs 250 is collected at Ravangla’s Buddha Park. There were no parking or entry fees for Bhutanese before,” he had said.
Kencho, from Phuentsholing, who visited Sikkim at the same time, said vehicle permit fees were collected from Bhutanese vehicles, and he had heard that a few Bhutanese were discussing it and saying that permit fees were collected at the checkpoint.
Tenzin, who also visited Sikkim in the same month by Indian taxi, said that she heard permit fees were collected from Bhutanese vehicles.
Meanwhile, some Bhutanese who drove their private cars said that they did not pay permit fees.
Sangay Rabten from Thimphu