Highway: Pemagatshel highway is dusty and riddled with potholes.

The members of Pemagatshel Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT) said that it is not only the responsibility of Department of Roads (DoR) to repair the highway, but also of Druk Satir Corporation Limited.

The DT members, which includes gups and mangmis of 11 gewogs demanded that the corporation should also be held responsible and made to contribute for the maintenance of highway.

The 24km highway starts from Tshelingkhor gate at Trashigang-Samdrupjongkhar highway to Pemagatshel town and goes on for another 18km from the town to Khothakpa where the gypsum factory is located.

Zobel Gup Pema Dorji who raised the issue in the DT that was held on April 12, said the highway is worse than a farm road and the reckless truck drivers carrying overload are the ones who damages and use the highway most.

“The factory must be benefitting its owner and a little to the truck drivers, but it isn’t benefitting public in anyways,” he said. “They earn in millions so, they could spare little amount to repair the work even if not the entire road, at least the critical portions or in Khothakpa.”

In summer, rainwater accumulates in the potholes and the road also becomes dangerous. More than 200 trucks carry gypsum everyday.

Although DoR is currently carrying out the widening and blacktopping of certain portions of highway, some of the members said that the department has always reasoned lack of budget for delaying the widening and maintenance of road.

Agreeing with the Zobel Gup, members demanded that the corporation should contribute budget because the road department is facing budget shortage and also demanded traffic police strictly checks on the overload.

“It’s not only residents who complain about the road but even the visitors from outside complain,” Dungmin Gup Ugyen Tshering said, adding that they are just seeking help from the corporation and not demanding to share their profit.

Dzongdag Phuntsho said that as per the system they should do something because it is dzongkhag’s road and question what they can do as a part of corporate social responsibility because all these should have been mentioned while proposing the project. “There is a need for coordination and to decide what the corporation can do for the dzongkhag.”

The DT chairperson Chongshing Gup Pema Dorji said the issue was found to be genuine and was decided that the dzongkhag administration would write to Druk Satir to look into the matter.

An official from Druk Satir said that they were never informed about the issue or the DT.

However, the official said that they are not sure if it is rational on the part of the company to agree to the maintenance of the highway when the company is already substantially contributing to the government in terms of various taxes like royalty and corporate income, tax among many.

“In addition to that we’re paying bid value of Nu 41.35 crores for the auction mines for the period of 15 years from 2004 to 2018 in the second phase, which is not tax deductible expenditure,” official said. “The company from 1994 until 2015 has paid cumulative payment of more than Nu 1.2 billions to the government.”

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Pemagatshel