KP Sharma

“American roads are not good because America is rich, but America is rich because American roads are good,” US President John F Kennedy.

As Bhutan looks to be not only self-sufficient but also an economically strong nation, the focus is being placed on improving transport networks. Bhutan Transport 2040 lays out a detailed plan.

However, the reality is sadly quite different. The transport system in the country, especially, surface transport, is beset with myriad hiccups.

The vision of Bhutan Transport 2040 is to provide the Bhutanese population with a safe, reliable, affordable, convenient, cost-effective, and environment-friendly transport system to support strategies for socio-economic development.

The commuters travelling along Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway say that the lengthy Checkpost Management System (CPMS) process at Wangkha is a torture.

The police at the gates ask for the original citizenship identity cards; some police do not even accept documents in soft copy, making it difficult and cumbersome for the travellers.

The problem is more common for those using public transport services, as it takes time to verify individual documents with limited officials at the gate.

Public buses can be seen parked on either side of the gate as the police check the documents of the passengers one by one.

The police officials say that the requirement of an original citizenship card is to crosscheck for better verification of documents and to prevent the commuters from cheating the authorities by using false documents.

The commuters say that this flies in the face of Bhutan’s initiatives to go digital.

A commuter, Lhab Dorji, who had forgotten his CID card, said that despite showing a copy of his CID on his phone, the police asked him for endless justifications. “The details reflected in CPMS should include my CID details. Why the need to produce other documents?”

Lhab Dorji hopes that such a clumsy system would change once the government completes Digital Drukyul Flagship Programme. “Some police accept the soft copy of our CID. There seems to be a lack of a uniform system which ultimately becomes a burden for travellers.”

Checking the documents as some police still do takes a lot of time, leading to unnecessary hassle and delays.

Lyonpo Karma Donnen Wangdi in the winter session of Parliament in December said that 86 percent of the Integrated Citizen Service Project which would provide more than 10 commonly-used government services was completed under the Digital Drukyul Flagship programme.