Trongsa: Following voters being blocked for up to five hours on the Trongsa-Zhemgang highway, the dzongkhag election authority in Trongsa issued a reprimand to the Department of Roads (DoR), and warning letters to both the Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) and the Bhutan Engineering Company Pvt Ltd (BECPL) on September 27.

BECPL was also fined.

The authority made this move following a roadblock at Chubjapang near Trongsa due to blasting being carried out by BECPL. Voters and election officials reported to the dzongkhag election authority of being stuck at the block for about five hours. Chubjapang is some 2km from Trongsa towards Zhemgang.

The dzongkhag election authority’s letter to DoR states that the office, as a responsible stakeholder and relevant agency failed to inspect, monitor, and act to ensure smooth and safe traffic along the roads under it’s jurisdiction during the election period despite three rounds of meetings and reminders.

It is stated that BECPL carried out the blasting at around 11:30am on September 26, stranding voters travelling as far as to Mongar. The authority also reprimands DoR for failing to clear blocks, as committed during the third round of a stakeholders meeting, along the Korphu gewog centre road. It is pointed out that DoR did not restrict vehicles using the defunct bailey bridge that connects the Korphu road.

“DoR has also failed to inform contractors working on the Trongsa-Thimphu highway about the minutes of the coordination meeting,” the letter states, adding that multiple minor blocks along this stretch had also caused hindrance to travelling voters.

It is also pointed out that DoR officials were not informed of the hindrance despite the chief election coordinator personally instructing the DoR chief.

The authority has also warned MHPA for noncompliance to the minutes of the meetings held earlier on ensuring a free and fair elections in the dzongkhag. “This is an act of negligence and noncompliance to the minutes of the meeting and electoral laws on your part as a stakeholder,” the letter states.

The warning letter also reminds MHPA to abide by electoral and other relevant laws to ensure free and fair elections and also ensure safety of the voters and election officials until the election period expires.

BECPL has also been warned for noncompliance. The election authority has also imposed on BECPL a fine of Nu 12,900 for breaching traffic rules, and electoral and other relevant laws.

The stakeholders are warned with legal action for any further noncompliance.

BECPL’s site engineer said they blasted the area with the aim to widen the narrow road. However, the blasting caused a large mass to slide down onto the road. Huge rocks that landed on the road had to be drilled and blasted again.

“Usually roads can be cleared within 30 minutes after blasting but they could not due to huge rocks that slid onto the road,” he said.  The company will pay the fine.

DOR’s chief engineer, Taugay Choedup, said BECPL blasted with good intensions. “I was out to vote but immediately called BECPL’s site engineer and MHPA’s chief engineer asking them to act immediately,” he said. He added that contractors on Trongsa-Thimphu highway are reminded to keep the highway open almost everyday.

Taugay Choedup said Korphu’s gewog centre road was also cleared as per instructions by the committee but heavy rain blocked it again. “We informed the dzongkhag and even advertised through broadcast media restricting people from using the bailey bridge on the Korphu gewog centre road,” he said. He added that piles of debris were left at the entry of the bridge to prevent drivers from using it.

MHPA’s managing director, AK Mishra, said they followed the dzongkhag’s instructions and kept the tunnel open for traffic and vehicles travelled through. The tunnel is still open. “We followed the dzongkhag’s instructions,” he said.

Nima Wangdi