Trade between Bhutan and India has resumed after more than 300 trucks carrying Bhutanese import and export goods that were held up across the Phuentsholing border for a week were cleared over the weekend, officials from the department of trade (DoT) confirmed.
The lack of proper services at the customs office in Jaigaon following the introduction of the Indian Goods and Services Tax (GST) had disrupted the flow of trade.
Jaigaon Transporters’ Welfare Association had stopped the vehicle movement. With the situation worsening each day, Bhutan’s trade movement with India had halted since August 21.
Director with the trade department, Sonam Tenzin, said, the regional customs and trade office had been continuously monitoring the matter to ensure problems were resolved at the earliest.
“These two offices had met with the counterpart officials from across the border to solve the problem,” the director said.
The latest development of getting the trucks cleared across the border, Sonam Tenzin said was based on the “goodwill” that Jaigaon and Phuetsholing shared.
Following this, the Jaigaon land customs office has also upgraded its system. There are now four more computers installed at the office to process the required clearances as per GST.
Regional trade director in Phuentsholing, Pem Bidha said that Internet connectivity has also improved.
“They are also working to upgrade the current BSNL Internet connectivity to Reliance for better connectivity,” she said, adding that a team to change the system was working when Bhutanese officials from trade and revenue and customs visited the office yesterday.
Pem Bidha said that the customs office counterpart in Jaigaon were as worried about the situation and gave it priority. “They worked from 8am until 10pm,” she said.
Save for few trucks, customs processes for which were ongoing, all other trucks that were held up along the roadside have been cleared, Pem Bidha said.
Another major development on the issue is that the customs office in Jaigaon has decided to increase its manpower, Kuensel has learned. Five more inspectors would be deputed to the office as soon as possible and a shift system introduced to enhance better services.
DoT director Sonam Tenzin also said that a meeting was held in Thimphu yesterday where officials from the ministries of economic affairs and finance met with other relevant agencies to discuss the issue.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing