Truckers to raise concerns on motor vehicle agreement

A number of concerns on the BBIN MVA, ranging from business to culture, will be submitted to the gov’t today

Transport: Truckers from across the country will present their views against the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) to the information and communications ministry today in the capital.

Implications on their businesses and livelihoods, social and security issues, impact on the environment, and subsidised fuel are some of the major concerns representatives will talk about in their campaign against the vehicle agreement that was signed last year.

After the agreement was signed in 2015, truckers and cabbies have regularly spoken to the media airing their grievances and concerns should the agreement come into effect. The issue was also raised during the last session of parliament.

While acknowledging that the initiative is good, representatives of the truckers committee based in Phuentsholing, said that they were not consulted before the agreement was signed.

“We will face many problems if this agreement is implemented,” representative Tshering Nidup said. “While it has direct impact to us within the country, it would affect the general population more.”

Should the BBIN MVA be implemented, commercial vehicles from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal would be allowed to ferry goods into the country. At present, foreign commercial vehicles are limited to around five kilometres away from the border areas such as Phuentsholing, Gelephu, Nganglam, Samtse, and Samdrupjongkhar. From there, the goods are transferred onto local trucks which then bring it into Bhutan.

Local commercial drivers say they could face various problems ferrying goods across the border on routes beyond Assam and Bengal. Bhutanese commercial trucks are currently allowed to travel in Assam and Bengal.

Problems such as syndicates, strikes, taxes, and security, may not allow them to smoothly ferry goods beyond the existing routes, truckers say.

Another problem local truckers fear is the uncertain risks they may have to face if they are involved in accidents on new and unknown routes.

“Even today, we are just transporting goods to other places within the country,” Tshering Nidup said. He pointed out that Bhutanese truckers use routes in Assam and Bengal only because there are no internal routes. “We can drive through but finding business in foreign land for us would be challenging.”

Local drivers fear they will lose business with foreign competition. They also pointed they would face difficulty in repaying loans made to purchase vehicles.

Another representative for the truckers, BB Tamang, explained that there would also be social and cultural impacts. “Crime rates can shoot up,” he said, adding that issues related to illegal substances may also increase. “Health related issues could also grow with too much external influences.”

Meanwhile, truckers and cabbies are also worried that too much vehicular movement inside the country would deteriorate roads and affect the pristine environment with pollution. The purpose of Gross National Happiness (GNH) based growth would also be defeated, BB Tamang said.

Overuse of subsidised fuel with increased vehicular movement is another concern that would be presented. Representatives from other business entities, including taxi drivers will also attend the discussion.

Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing

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