Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) has remitted Indian Currency (IC) Rs 843.45 million (M) for the merchants in Jaigaon.

The remittance programme, the seventh this year, initiated on October 24, concluded yesterday.

In total, Bhutan now has remitted about Rs 1.53 billion (B) to Jaigaon merchants and traders.

Prior to this remittance, Bhutan facilitated remittance of Rs 690M. This was facilitated until the end of June this year, after the international border gate closed on March 23 as the pandemic response.

This time, a separate spot was stalled at the Mini Dry Port (MDP) where the Indian merchants from Jaigaon brought Ngultrum and handed over to bank officials as deposits.

After the cash deposits, two banks, Bank of Bhutan (BOB) and Druk PNB Bank Ltd (DPNBL), facilitated the service of demand draft and RTGS.

An RMA official said considering the significance of INR and Ngultrum parity and its impact of businesses between the two neighboring countries, the RMA facilitated the seventh INR remittance with the support from Southern Covid-19 Task Force (SC19TF), RBP, and Bhutan India Friendship Association (BIFA).

“In order to continue free n uninterrupted trade with India and to maintain free convertibility of Nu and INR at parity, RMA facilitated exchange of the two currencies at MDP,” he said.

“The open area banking at MDP under the supervision of Task Force in Phuentsholing is itself an extraordinary arrangement by Bhutanese authorities to strengthen the spirit of friendship between the two countries. Within four days, INR 844 million was provided to Jaigaon Merchants Association (JMA) and other traders in Jaigoan.”

The currency exchange was carried out strictly following the Covid-19 health protocols as per the directives and supervision of the SC19TF, the official said.

The cashiers from the two banks will also undergo quarantine for a week.

This exchange of Indian Rupee (INR) has come as a huge relief to Jaigaon traders. With the border gate closed due to the pandemic, the value of BC had plummeted across the border giving rise to illegal trading of IC-BC. This had created problems to merchants and common people.

Traders were also not able to pay to their parties because they only had Ngultrum.

The general secretary with the JMA, RS Gupta, said that the remittance would solve many problems in Jaigaon.

“There was a panic situation here as people only had BC and they thought they are stuck with it. Our traders were also unable to pay the parties,” he said, adding all problems would be solved with the remittance facility.

RS Gupta said that the economy in Jaigaon was down and the problem would continue with the pandemic. He said people in Jaigaon were waiting the trade between Jaigaon and Bhutan  to resume.

“The association would like to extend our gratitude to the SC19TF, BIFA and RMA,” he said.  “We hope such support will continue.”

The general secretary of Jaigaon Hardware and Electrical Merchant’s Welfare Association (JHEMWA), Rakesh Pandey said 99 percent of the people across the border—until Hasimara—used Ngultrum.

“With the remittance facility, we have been able to pay our suppliers,” he said.

Further, people were also able to use INR for personal things such as medical treatments and children’s school fees.

“Traders can also now export to Bhutan.”