Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Without movement beyond the Rinchending check post, many truckers in Phuentsholing have been rendered jobless.
There are more than 100 trucks lying idle in different locations, truckers say. Although a few get jobs to deliver goods until Rinchending from where the consignments are transshipped, 70 percent of the trucks in Phuentsholing do not have work.
A truck driver and owner, Dorji Wangchuk, said this problem had left many drivers and truck owners without any income.
“When there is no work, it means a big problem,” he said, adding that soon it would be difficult for him to provide for his family.
Dorji Wangchuk said that trucking business came to a grinding halt after the pandemic hit the country and the sealing of the border gates on March 23.
Truckers can still send their trucks beyond the Rinchending check post but drivers from other dzongkhags will have to take over the vehicle and the load from Rinchending.
This, truckers in Phuentsholing said, was not the best option. The driver who takes over from Rinchending takes a certain portion from the total transportation income.
Pem Tshering, who had a load to drop at Rinchending from Toorsa, said that about Nu 8,000 to Nu 10,000 was invested on the driver if he chose to send his vehicle to the PHPA-II project site.
“My driver had come from Thimphu and stayed at Pekharzhing, at his friend’s place, because he is not allowed to enter Phuentsholing,” he said.
Another trucker, Tshering Dorji, said it was also risky to trust other truckers.
“Since there is no better alternative, we are just staying idle,” he said, adding that his earning was zero these days. “I was not able to pay for my insurance. I am hearing that we will have to pay for our loans from next month.”
Tshering Dorji said that the truckers felt it was not appropriate to raise the issue to the government because it was already under huge pandemic pressure.
If the trucks from other dzongkhags come to Phuentsholing, the drivers are not allowed to drive beyond Rinchending. Driver from Phuentsholing has to be managed. This is also an additional cost.
Truckers also raise their concerns that there is no logistic arrangement for the drivers who come from other dzongkhags who have to stay in Rinchending.
Meanwhile, several drivers are also stranded in Phuentsholing after the nationwide lockdown on August 11.
Kinga Dhendup is stranded along with his wife and son. He is currently living inside his truck at Toorsa.
“We came from Thimphu on August 10 and were headed to Nganglam,” he said.
Kinga’s friend, Pema Thinley from Thimphu, is also stranded in Toorsa and sleeps in his truck.
“It has been 45 days now,” he said.“I eat at Kinga’s kitchen inside the truck sometimes. Otherwise I buy from the canteen nearby.”
Kinga Dhendup and Pema Thinley said they called the helpline and registered for their movement. They were told their turn would come after the relocation of Phuentsholing students, they said, adding that they have received no further information.
“But how long will this continue?” asked one truck owner, adding that drivers could become desperate if they don’t earn and may even resort to other illegal activities.