Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Although loan deferment has come as a major relief to the dumper truck owners and transporters, without the export of dredged riverbed materials (RBM) to Bangladesh and India due to the pandemic, hundreds of trucks have remained idle for months.

There are no transport jobs in the local market for these trucks, transporters say.

With increasing number of Covid-19 cases in West Bengal and indeterminate lockdown in the state’s many towns, the export of boulders and RBM is likely not going to resume anytime soon.

If the export doesn’t resume, transporters say sustenance will be a serious issue.

A transporter, Sonam Jamtsho, said: “And there are no major projects to engage the trucks.”

Another truck owner, Samten, said that parking charge for the trucks was expensive.

Since there is no work, it is also difficult for the truck owners to pay the drivers.

Without the Kidu, the condition of truck owners would have been worst, they say.

Many invested heavily on dumper trucks after dredging was allowed in 2017 in Phuentsholing. However, due to hiccups in the business many truck owners had heavily defaulted by the end of 2019.

One transporter said that he received a call from the bank inquiring if he would be able to repay the loan and suggested to submit a form if he was unable to.

“I told that I had no work since the lockdown and there was no means to pay,” he said.

After the lockdown in India on March 25, hundreds of Bhutanese dumper trucks were also stranded at Fulbari, India at the border of Banglabandha, Bangladesh. Of 489 trucks stranded at the Fulbari, 316 entered Bhutan by June 26.

More than 100 trucks have still not registered to return despite being able to unload the materials in Bangladesh. This, sources say, are Bhutanese registered trucks owned and operated by people across the border.