Boulder export comes to halt after ACC notification

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Truckers question relevant government agencies for not constructing weigh bridge at Gelephu

After the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) issued a notice on the restriction of overload carried by trucks which was enforced from last Friday, exporters and truckers ferrying boulders to Bangladesh are reportedly affected. 

Not a single truck has moved to Bangladesh after the notification was enforced. Almost a hundred trucks are stranded in Phuentsholing. Ten wheeler trucks ferry boulders from Phuentsholing, Gelephu and Samtse.

With the prescribed load, these exporters have stopped export fearing loss that they would incur on exporting the boulders. At the prescribed weights, each truck is to carry not more than 15 MT for which the exporters would earn lower than what they have been earning.

With the gross weight of 25 MT, trucks are allowed to carry only upto 13.7 MT per trip. The exporters would earn around Nu 1,800 per trip which takes upto five days.

If they continue to ferry according to the old system, they would earn around Nu 22,000 per trip.

However, they pay 2% to the government as tax while making payment to the source from where they have bought.

Some exporters have hired the trucks from the owners after extending financial help to them while buying the trucks. These owners are liable to pay to the exporters, which is done through carrying the boulders under the exporters. “We cannot export following the directives from ACC as we are facing loss,” NareshGhalley, Manager of Cheki Wangmo Transport said.

The company has nine loaded trucks which are parked at the truck parking in Phuentsholing. All the documents of 104 trucks of nine exporters are still parked and loaded since May 17.

The truckers and exporters say that the notification came as a surprise and they could not dispatch some loaded trucks from the next day of notification.

It was learnt that exporters from Gelephu have been resorting to deceptive practices by under declaring the weight without a Weigh Bridge. They pay tax only for the prescribed weight but have exported extra boulders without declaration.

While the case having surfaced from Gelephu, now the notification has hit the entire boulder business, according to the exporters. The boulders from Phuentsholing and Samtse have been declaring their weight before dispatching to Bangladesh.  

Exporters have been exporting boulders at a flat rate of USD18 per Metric Ton (MT). The exporters buy from the owners at Nu 370 per MT. The exporter earns around Nu 91 per MT as net profit per trip. It takes more than three days to make a trip to and fro Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, transporters are seeking clarification on the reason from the ACC for implementing the restriction suddenly.

A representative from the Truckers Association of Bhutan, TshewangRinzin, said truckers welcome the order but it should have been issued in advance so that they could prepare accordingly. “Still hundreds of loaded trucks are parked and the owners and exporters are clueless on what to do next,” TshewangRinzin said.

Tshewang Rinzin said the rules had been framed decades ago but were not seriously implemented until recently. “The government has decided suddenly,” he said.

Gelephu is still without a weigh bridge which could weigh consignments for declaration. But Tshewang Rinzin said the relevant government agency should have constructed a weigh bridge to curb the weight of the consignment issue. “What were they doing so far? Because of their carelessness, we are impacted,” he said.  It is not known why a weigh bridge in Gelephu is not constructed.

Also, the truckers feel the need to have diplomatic talks with India over the carrying capacity of trucks. Up to 200km in India is considered local area and weight restriction is not implemented. So reaching Bangladesh from any part of the country is considered local, according to the truckers as the distance is less than 200km.

The truckers have been resorting to paying Nu 7,500 a month to middlemen for carrying extra load along the Indian highways so far.

ACC has asked relevant stakeholders to strictly enforce the carrying capacity rule from May 17. The agencies have been following the notification; checking and mandating the truck drivers to produce the weight of the consignments at the checkpoints.

Since then, even trucks ferrying stones from mines have stopped along the roads to avoid penalties at the checkpoints. 

ACC investigated into the alleged corrupt practices indulged in the boulder business from Bhutan to Bangladesh which began in 2017. The commission’s investigation has revealed illegal activities in the business including evasion of taxes, manipulation of volume of export materials and officials being bribed.

Boulder is the top most exported commodity in the last three months surpassing ferro silicon, the country’s top most export item so far. Export of boulder, worth Nu 1bn, even surpassed that of electricity in the 2019 first quarter.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing

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