… importers complain of delays in clearing imports

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The Mini Dry Port (MDP) in Phuentsholing, which earlier operated with more than 80 loaders, is managing with just about 50 loaders and that has led to delays in clearing imported goods, according to sources. 

Around 30 loaders left the MDP in the last two to three months. Today, MDP and truck parking (temporary) ports put together are clearing just about 60 vehicles a day.

One importer from Thimphu, Sonam Tshering said that there is a labour problem in the MDP.

“The loaders work slow,” he said. “They used to clear two truckloads before but today they just cleared a truck within the same time.”

There wasn’t any problem prior to mechanisation, Sonam Tshering said, explaining loaders earned more then, in commission system, and worked more.

“But it is also due to the rain these days,” he said, adding MDP doesn’t have shelters to work in while raining.

MDP was offered to a private firm, Dhendup Enterprise, and was supposed to be mechanised. A new set of loaders were recruited. A few who worked on commission payment mode prior to the mechanisation were also kept. However, the wages system didn’t motivate the loaders. MDP is also yet to be fully mechanised.

A former loader said many left because of the payment system. “It was better working on the commission system in terms of income.”

He also said that the rules were particularly strict for loaders at MDP.

Another said that loaders were promised Nu 100 per hour.

“We worked at least 10 hours a day,” he said. “When we got the salary for 17 days (after the joining date), they gave us just Nu 12,000. There were too many deductions. We regretted joining as loaders.”

A manager with Dhendup Enterprise said they are planning to recruit more loaders. Three loaders joined yesterday, he said.

Meanwhile, many issues related to the registration of ‘import vehicles’ were also reported when Phuentsholing was under lockdown. However, customs changed the registration system. All importers can now register their vehicles on a particular day. The importers are intimated when their import turn arrives.

A new registration is allowed only after all these registered vehicles are cleared. 

Although the registration issue is done away with now, importers feel it still takes a long time.

An importer from Thimphu said that he imports from factories as far as Bihar, India and when he gets the confirmation, he had to immediately intimate the news to the factory. Sometimes, they have to do production overnight, he said, explaining the vehicles don’t reach on time.

Some importers are even pointing out that if the MDP loaders aren’t able to deliver, labourers from across the border must be brought in, quarantined, and allowed to work.

Meanwhile, goods are also categorised into three categories for import: essentials, non-essentials, and single items.

The expenses are higher for the single-item. There are three drivers required in this system and each one has to be paid over Nu 3,000. 

A driver from Thimphu and other places drive until the Sorchen driving switching area. He hands it over to a driver from Phuentsholing who takes it to the MDP. From there, an Indian driver takes the vehicle to Jaigaon, loads it and drops it back to MDP. The Phuentsholing local driver then drives the vehicle up to Sorchen, and returns it to the driver of the truck who waits there.

Edited by Tshering Palden