Ten days after the decision to charge Nu 10 user fee at the pedestrian terminal in Phuentsholing, there are complaints from some quarters.

Although many are in support of the decision and practice, there are complaints because the users want accountability in the system. A visitor from Thimphu said that a payment receipt would ensure that the fee collection is not misused.

This is a good suggestion and the authorities concerned should study and implement a system that would bring transparency and accountability. Another visitor said that the system must be made systematic and hassle-free.

The levy is applicable for every instance of entry and exit. A Bhutanese who goes to Jaigaon is required to pay Nu 10 user fee at the terminal and Nu 10 more to enter Bhutan. The same rule applies to visitors from across the border.

The director general of the Department of Immigration (DoI), Pema L Dorji, said that the department welcomes feedback and concerns. “We value feedback and take all concerns expressed… We attach the highest importance to accountability and transparency.”

This is a welcome development.

Bhutanese in general see the merit of this decision. Phuentsholing residents have been supportive of the decision.  What needs bearing in mind is that terminal should be self-sustaining for which a system to plough back fee collection should be robust and incorruptible.

What we know is that as the terminal is busy throughout the day, it has already witnessed some wear and tear. Therefore, we must ensure that the money collected as user fee is put to good use.

It is not the government’s intention to make trade and visits between the peoples of the two countries difficult. We are already hearing complaints from across the border and their threats to retaliate with similar requirements for Bhutanese entering Jaigaon. Some views and actions cannot be helped, unfortunate as they are.

Therefore, it is incumbent on the responsible leadership such as dzongkhag, drungkhag, and thromde officials to disseminate the plans and information to their counterparts across the border.

The pedestrian terminal is there not to limit the movement of people and trade between Phuentsholing and Jaigaon. In fact, it is to facilitate both very transparently and professionally. More important, it is for the safety of the people on both sides of the border.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of the officials responsible to take in feedback from the users and establish a system that the government and people can trust.