In the hope of finding a lasting solution, the Automobile Sector Association of Bhutan (ASAB) has appealed to the minister for economic affairs on July 19 to allocate them government industrial land on long-term lease.

This follows the rental and other problems with the building owners in Olakha, Thimphu where operators function from rented buildings.

A similar same appeal was made to the minister for works and human settlement on April 9 this year. ASAB also appealed to the former prime minister on June 11, 2018 for relocating the automobile units to ensure survivability of the automobile business, security of the employment and livelihood of many youth and workshops’ staff.

Earlier in January 2018, ASAB had written to the thrompon requesting the thromde to look for an alternative of shifting the workshops outside the Thimphu Throm to avoid ad hoc increase in rent and alleged forceful eviction proposed by the building owners.

In the earlier letter submitted to the works and human settlement minister, ASAB stated that it has received many eviction notices and increase of rent. Owners claim they are following laws and issuing notice, as operators are not paying rents on time.

An executive member of ASAB said that they appealed to both ministries for government industrial land under Thimphu throm on long term due to exorbitant increase of rent and uncertain lease term not in line with the provision of the tenancy Act of Bhutan 2015.

The letter also stated that there is traffic congestion due to uncontrolled construction, narrow roads due to heavy flow of the vehicles and machineries kept for repair, noise and pollution in the present area, which is limited for growth.

The other reasons ASAB stated are irregularities of drinking water supply, as majority of the employees are residing in the area and poor drainage/sewerage system, absence of waste treatment plant.

They stated that there is also risk of fire hazard and pollution due to cramped workshops and residential buildings increasing in the limited space while there is no scope for expansion of workshops business and installation of latest technology mechanisms and safety measure system.

Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji, during a press conference earlier this month, said that the government is aware of the issue. “We have not taken decision. For this case, the works and human settlement minister will have to submit to the cabinet as an agenda for discussion,” he said. “If the decision has to be taken by the prime minister then PM will issue an order. But I think the best solution for ASAB to have AM with PM which is a faster decision avenue.”

The ASAB will appeal to the works and human settlement minister today.

Meanwhile, landowners said that the ASAB is making an issue hoping that the government would provide them government land where they can build huts and operate automobile workshops. “Their whole intention of not paying rents and making an issue, even when they are making profits, is to pressure the government,” said a building owner.

“They know automobile workshop service is indispensible and are holding the government and the thromde for ransom,” he said.

Rinzin Wangchuk