The decision to charge Nu 10 user fee at the pedestrian terminal in Phuentsholing from November 1 is welcome.

The levy is applicable for every instance of entry and exit. That means if a Bhutanese goes to Jaigaon, he or she will have to pay Nu 10 user fee at the terminal and another Nu 10 user fee to enter Bhutan.

This will also be applicable to foreigners—if an Indian national from across the border decides to enter Phuentsholing, he or she will have to pay Nu 10 user fee at the terminal and another Nu 10 exit fee.

Bhutanese in general see the merit of this decision. When the announcement came early this week, Phuentsholing residents, although a bit surprised, supported the decision.  

What we must understand is that the terminal should be self-sustaining. As director general of the Department of Immigration, Pema L Dorji said, the user fee is for the “upkeep and maintenance of the terminal.” What this means is that the fee collection will be ploughed back into many recurrent expenses at the terminal such as electricity bills, internet bandwidth charges, and air-conditioning, among others.

As the terminal is busy throughout the day, it has already seen some wear and tear. Because there is a huge potential to succeed, the thromde should be able to manage the terminal outside the government’s development budget.

What we must also remember is that our neighbours from across the border might feel that we are making entry to Phuentsholing difficult for them. Such views are unfortunate and can’t be helped. We are already hearing complaints from across the border and their threats to retaliate with similar requirements for Bhutanese entering Jaigaon.

It is the responsibility of the 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; 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.