Villagers and local leaders of Pemathang and Samrang gewogs in Samdrupcholing dungkhag are calling for stronger security measures following an increase in the number of people entering the two gewogs from across the border.

Local leaders say that although the security issue is not alarming and that no major incidences have occurred, it is time the issue is raised as the number of people crossing the border is increasing.

According to villagers, people are now entering beyond Samrang gewog which shares a porous border with an Indian town, also called Samrang.

Pemathang gup, Madhukar Subba, said that in the past people from across the border would enter only until the river Neoli, which is located between Samrang and Pemathang gewog and then return. But now people even enter Pemathang gewog.

He said people from across the border usually come on motor bikes or vehicles till the river Neoli for picnics during the weekends and for other works but now they come and loiter around Pemathang because there are no restrictions in place.

Some of the villagers claimed that most people from across the border come because of the availability of alcohol and bars in Samrang. “We do tell them to return but it would be different from how the authority would handle such cases,” the gup said. “The route is not even official.”

The gup clarified that people are not saying movement of people from across the border should be stopped because even they travel across the border for business purposes but it should be through the official route.

The issue was raised several times in dzongkhag tshogdus and it was even discussed in the dzongkhag tshogdu held in February. Both the police and immigration department were requested to look into the matter, to install a proper gate and conduct patrols to control  movement.

But local leaders said nothing concrete has emerged and it is not even known if the area is feasible for a separate check post or outpost.

Sources said the concern was also raised with the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) during a visit to the border town by officials whereby SSB officials said they do control the movement but most of the people reasoned they would travel only till Samrang.

The gup said it is important to raise the issue before the situation worsens as more workers are being recruited for the establishment of the integrated livestock farm in Samrang.

Samrang gup, Tara Bir Bista, also said it is a concern and that with only three tshogpas, a gup and mangmi, it is difficult to control the movement because the number of visitors are increasing.

“We even tried to patrol two or three times in a month by ourselves on a shift system but it is difficult,” he said. “We look forward to having the issue resolved because security is important for a small gewog like Samrang.”

Samdrupjongkhar dzongdag, Tharchen Lhendup, during the last dzongkhag tshogdu, informed that the dzongkhag is studying the situation and looking to resolve it.

Meanwhile, an immigration official said that as an immediate and temporary measure, they advised the gewog administrative to install a temporary gate near the junction that leads to the gewog and the border, to stop vehicles from entering.

“The gewog administrative can lock the gate and keep the key and open the gate whenever necessary,” the official said. “But it will not control the movement of pedestrians.”

The official explained that they could not resolve the issue because the entry point is not an official route but a traditional one. “That is why we could not depute immigration officials.”

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Samdrupjongkhar