Commercial trucks ferrying riverbed materials (RBM) to Bangladesh and India are found carrying more than what is specified by the manufacturer on the registration certificate (bluebook).
The whole export business in the bordering dzongkhags came to standstill after the Anti-Corruption Corporation (ACC) issued a notification to strictly implement the carrying capacity rule specified in the Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) Act.
As per section 68 of the RSTA Act a vehicle can carry loads as per the gross vehicle weight (GVW) specified for the vehicle. Following concerns raised by transporters, the cabinet revised the GVW after the issue was discussed in the parliament.
However, the revision was not received well by truckers and exporters in the boulder business. They later resorted to the previous practice of carrying excess load.
According to some exporters in Gelephu, they received an “unofficial” authorisation from the government to resume business as usual.
“Because of all the challenges involved while strictly following the GVW rule, the government gave us an option,” said an exporter.
Foreign minister Dr Tandi Dorji, during a recent press conference said that ACC’s notification on overload was applicable only within the country. “As long as the trucks are plying within Bhutan, you should not carry above the certain weight.”
The minister said that the carrying capacity of trucks in Bhutan has not changed in accordance with the change in India. “In India they revised the carrying weight and this has not been done in Bhutan,” he said.
However, the government had revised the loading capacity of trucks across the country in tandem with the increase that the government of India enforced last year.
Lyonpo added that although the trucks carry more than the carrying capacity in Bhutan, as long as the trucks are carrying the weight in accordance with the law in India, it should be allowed. “It’s okay because you are plying in India and it doesn’t affect us,” he said, adding that the Bhutanese law cannot apply in India.
“If we do not do this, these truckers will be affected. But now we have to change and amend the regulations in line with the changes in India. This would take time and waiting is not an option as it is business for thousands of people,” he said.
Meanwhile, he said the government has asked ACC to allow all outbound trucks carrying overloads to pass.
The opposition, however, claimed that it was illegal to legitimise something, which the law doesn’t allow.
Opposition Leader, Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) in an earlier press conference said that the law is clear. “As far as transportation is concerned, the RSTA Act should prevail.” He said that the opposition was not aware if the government had given any sort of unofficial authorisation to the exporters.
He said that the whole boulder trade is plagued with irregularities. “First they started the boulder business without any regulations and procedures in place. It was like putting the cart before the horse,” he said.
Pema Gyamtsho said that as per the previous forest rules and regulations, no machinery was allowed in surface collection. “In 2017, the forest rules and regulations were amended and the forest department was allowed to issue the permit. That’s how Toorsa was opened,” he said. “In the name of surface collection, they have deployed several machines. This is nothing less than mining and surface collection is not even supposed to be commercial. Anything commercial has to be mining.”
Drametse Ngatshang MP, Ugyen Wangdi, said, “On the legality, if at all the government has given unofficial authorisation to fall back to previous way of exporting, we don’t think it is a good thing.”
He said that as a responsible nation, we have to respect the law of the neighboring countries. “If they are against overloading, how can we encourage our people to carry beyond carrying capacity,” he said. “We have to respect and abide by the law and to bypass the law, it is wrong.”