NRDCL has tightened security and in one incident, had to involve police

Truckers stopped the movement of trucks from Semtokha on January 22 in objection to the new sand supply system that the Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) implemented from January 1.

The NRDCL sought help of the police and more than a dozen truckers were taken to custody for questioning the same day.

Tshogpa of the truckers’ association, Thinley Dorji, said the issue of new system was discussed among truckers and a consensus was reached to halt trucks moving to Sha region sand harvesting site in Wangdue.

“We didn’t know that it was illegal,” he said. “After the police explained to us we decided to let the trucks go, who are willing to. For most, it does not make business sense.“

He said that transportation cost was slashed from Nu 7,720 to 6,772 a trip from Wangdue to Semtokha. “Most didn’t know about the revision.Our livelihood depends on the trucks and with reduced trips from the new system and lower cost, we won’t be able to sustain,” he said. “I got a bank notice to surrender my truck if I don’t pay my instalments.”

However, sources from the NRDCL said that on January 22, some truckers threatened to stone and harm those who pass Semtokha.

One field official, choosing anonymity said the truckers hassle and threaten officials. “We have to deal with their rogue behavior and foul language every day.”

An official said that truckers threatened to stab them and pour their frustration in the office.

In one instance, some truckers even banged the office window when they were being explained about the regulations. “We are afraid to go around the town thinking that they might attack us,” one official said.

NRDCL’s Chief Executive Officer, Sonam Wangchuk said that when few truckers tried to stop others, the management had to inform the police. He said that the field officials had also informed the management about the hassles and CCTVs were installed. “Even lady officials were abused with foul languages regularly,” he said.

He said that the company had also seen CCTV footage at the harvesting site in Wangdue where drivers almost battered an official for asking them to stay in queue. “These behaviors are not normal,” he said adding that the NRDCL has requested the Bhutan Narcotics Control Authority to test the drivers. “But it comes with cost and we are exploring options,” he said.

Sonam Wangchuk said CCTVs would have to be installed in the offices too, which was not done in the past for privacy of the employees. Security would be tightened and if needed, police will be involved again.

“Truckers come and threaten us to take charge of their trucks and ask us to pay the loan EMI,” another official said.

Truckers’ tshogpa Thinley Dorji however, said that he has not seen such incidences personally. “But such things could be possible,” he said adding that when the livelihood of both drivers and owners are at stake, frustrations might come out.

Truckers, he said have appealed to the government and the prime minister on several occasions. Despite the agriculture ministry sending two letters to the NRDCL to halt the implementation of the new system, he accused the NRDCL of not paying heed to it.

In an earlier interview with Kuensel, Sonam Wangchuk, said the company and the government are now on the same page after a miscommunication between the two was cleared. “The government initially thought we were going to put a cap on the number of trucks,” he said.

Agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji had then said that the government did not want to put a cap on the number of transporters. After NRDCL clarified that they would not limit the number of trucks, the government agreed to the new system.

The CEO said that most clients authorise the truckers to fulfil the formalities. The issue of middlemen’s involvement in sand supply was deliberated in the board and the new system was introduced in keeping with the NRDCL’s mandate to make sand affordable, available and accessible to all.

Tshering Dorji