…from Bhutanese exchange counters

Rupee: Royal Monetary Authority’s (RMA) two exchange counters at Phuentsholing will start catering to Indian traders of Jaigaon from next month.

However, the counters will maintain a limit of INR 50,000 per person per month, and to avail of the service, traders will have to produce a voter card without which dispensation will not be made.

Officials of finance ministry and Royal Monetary Authority informed the Jaigaon traders of the facility yesterday.

Finance Minister Namgay Dorji said that this is being done to solve the Ngultrum-Rupee disparity problem.

On January 12, three exchange counters in Thimphu and two in Phuentsholing were opened. However, the counters facilitated INR exchange only to Bhutanese pilgrims travelling to India, while

Indian dealers were permitted to exchange INR from any bank in Phuentsholing.

An Indian citizen is allowed to exchange up to INR 50,000 upon producing voter card. Permanent Account Number (PAN) card will be required to avail more than INR 50,000. However, Jaigaon traders will still have to make demand drafts and Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) to exchange more than INR 50,000.

RMA disbursed INR 8.3 million on the opening day. In less than a month, the outflow has reached a staggering INR 412 million.

Rupee shortage that began in 2011 led automatically to Ngultrum depreciation, giving rise to illegal business of currency trading. Nu 120 could buy only INR 100.

Lyonpo Namgay Dorji said that it might take some time for the problem to be completely solved.

Although the opening of counters helped equalize Ngultrum against Rupee, some places in along the borders still charge Bhutanese more.

Officials from RMA and finance ministry will visit other affected areas to solve the problem of currency disparity.

At the consultation meeting yesterday, Jaigaon traders requested the RMA and finance ministry to permit them to open accounts with banks in Phuentsholing.

The general secretary of Jaigaon Hardware and Electrical merchant’s Welfare Association (JAEWA), Rakesh Pandey, said: “Our counterpart informed us that this idea is already included in the clause. We too would like to see currency disparity removed.”

Rajesh Rai, Phuetsholing