Contention: Taxi tshogpa Dorji Wangchuk is being criticised for collecting Nu 1,500 each from taxi drivers for the renewal of taxi after nine years.

Tsheten (name changed), who is a taxi driver, said that the decision to collect the amount was not discussed with him.

“It came to me as a surprise when I went to him to get his signature to renew my vehicle,” Tsheten said. “I haven’t heard of any such rules.”

Dorji Wangchuk said that the decision was made based on mutual understanding among the taxi drivers. He added that he has been serving as the representative of the community since 2002 without any benefits.

“I make my living from driving taxi. The additional responsibility as the tshogpa gave me no extra income,” said Dorji Wangchuk. “Looking at the amount of time and money I spend attending meetings for the community, some of the drivers felt that I should be given some incentives.”

When he decided to quit last year, taxi drivers insisted that he remain as their tshogpa, said Dorji Wangchuk. That was decided, he added, that each taxi driver would contribute Nu 100 for the work he and his only staff Rinchen Tshering do.

However, of some 1,600-taxi drivers in Thimphu, only 100 of them who had gathered at the Changlimithang taxi parking, agreed to the decision made that day and only 80 drivers contributed. The money collected lasted for just two months.

“The idea didn’t work. Therefore, I came out with my own idea to collect Nu 1,500 from those drivers who wanted to renew their taxi after nine years of service,” said Dorji Wangchuk, adding that the idea was welcomed by some 400 drivers who were present when he floated his idea in one of the meetings.

Sangay Phuntsho, a senior taxi driver, said that the decision to collect Nu 1,500 every eight years is reasonable. “We understand that the tshogpa is working extra hours for the community and not for himself,” he said. “Therefore, there was no issue from our side when he proposed the idea of collecting Nu 1,500 once every eight years.”

Sangay Phuntsho said that those drivers who had issues with the decision were the ones who are not regular taxi drivers. “They don’t attend the meetings and when some decisions are made, they always have issues. They are, indeed, the problem.”

After some taxi drivers filed a complaint with the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), Dorji explained the issue with the officials. There has been no word whatsoever from RSTA since, said Dorji Wangchuk.

“They [RSTA officials] just told me to keep the records of the expenditure that I make as the tshogpa for official purposes,” said Dorji Wangchuk. “It must be understood that Nu 1,500 is not entirely for me. It is to be shared with my staff for the work that we do for the all the taxi drivers.”

So far, more than 50 taxi drivers have paid Nu 1,500 to the tshogpa as renewal fee.

Since his appointment, Dorji Wangchuk has been the tshogpa for 14 years.

Younten Tshedup