It has been more than a fortnight since boulder exporters have halted their consignments to Bangladesh. The halt according to the exporters are due to harassment the transporters face from the locals and an official order from District Commissioner of Meghalaya government in India citing weigh bridge issues.
The vehicles are parked without load and the exporters are worried. Boulder consignments from Gelephu follow Meghalaya’s route through Tura to reach Nakugaon in Bangladesh. While using the route, the drivers have also encountered harassment by locals thus some vehicles had to return with the consignments. Those who were on the way are also stuck.
The Meghalaya route was unofficially opened as an interim measure for transport in 2013 by Bhutan Exporters Association and is still being used. Otherwise the export from Gelephu to Bangladesh happens from Burimari. Using the route from Burimari in Assam is not feasible for the exporters as the cost would escalate when the consignment reaches Bangladesh. The cost would shoot up by almost 60% as compared to the cost of export from Phuentsholing and Samtse.
Also, the bad road condition has contributed to the halt according to exporters. Lobzang Thinley has not sent a single consignment for the past two weeks. He said that all these problems have contributed to the halt.
Few exporters have explored exporting using inland water way from Dhupri in Assam. But there are not enough depots to stock the materials and the existing depots arepacked therefore there are unloaded trucks at Dhupri.
Almost 35 exporters export boulder and stone aggregates from Gelephu. Exporters in Meghalaya are also exporting boulders to Bangladesh to harass the Bhutanese drivers and to boost their own export, according to exporters. “That is the main reason,” an exporter from Gelephu said.
Another exporter had to undergo hassles to return his consignment to the country from halfway as it could not reach the destination. Being destined for third country, he had to undergo numerous customs procedures in India and Bhutan just to bring back the undelivered consignment. It took him five days. “That was my last trip and I have not send any consignment since then,”said Karma, one of the exporters.
Meanwhile, boulder exports from Gelephu and Samtse are moving smoothly. Earlier, upto 100 trucks of boulders and aggregates used to leave for Bangladesh per day.
The exporters are now worried about the work and loan repayment of the vehicles to the banks. They also have to pay their employees. Some exporters have to pay upto Nu 1.5mn to the banks per month as loan repayment for the vehicles they have bought.
Meanwhile, Bhutan Exporters Associations’ General Secretary, Tshering Yeshi, said that the road in Tura and Dalu in Meghalaya are closed for traffic due to landslides. “They can make best use of the inland water transport service from Dhupri. The association is always there to support them,” he said.
Krishna Ghalley from Gelephu