YK Poudel | Samtse

The Phuentsholing-Samtse national highway, which gained prominence during the border closure, has brought about positive outcomes for local businesses and vendors.

The 58-kilometre road was constructed in July 2018.

After the Covid-19 pandemic hit Bhutan, the dzongkhag restricted vehicles, including passenger buses, from plying through India. Only selected vehicles with a pass to travel from India are allowed, which has led to local businesses prospering with an increased number of commuters travelling daily.

Pravin Chhetri, 40, from Khempagaon, Tading, has started ‘Highway Inn’, a hotel and grocery store along the highway. He said: “There is an increased vehicle movement through this route these days, leading to an increase in sales. The route has given hope for the local businesses along the way. My hotel hosts 10 buses daily.”

The residents of Khempagaon are happy with the travel restrictions that the dzongkhag has made on vehicles from India. Resham Ghalley, a vegetable vendor at Panbari, said that the farmers can produce more vegetables and sell along the way. “The decision has encouraged the local vendors and farmers to produce and sell. The pandemic has helped the small businesses along the highway grow.”

A restaurant owner at Panbari, Kalpana, said that business has improved since the pandemic. “At least seven private vehicles, including taxis, stop by every day. I can earn between 1,500 and 2,000 daily. Previously, commuters from these areas had to pay high taxi charges to go to Phuentsholing. Now that this is the main route, travel expenses are less.”

There are seven hotels and a couple of vegetable sheds along the Tading-Samtse highway. The businesses and farmers expect the dzongkhag administration to continue with the travel restriction from India.

Tading Gup, Yam Bahadur Ghalley, said that the residents and farmers are now able to be self-sufficient. “There are about 18 shops and vendors in Tading Gewog. We expect the dzongkhag administration to continue the support as Tading is centrally located.”