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The Olakha workshop predicament

The case between automobile workshop owners in Olakha, Thimphu and their landlords cannot go unnoticed. It is important. It affects us all.

Those running the workshop are against the hike in rent followed by an ultimatum to vacate. Landlords want to renovate the buildings or expand it to make most of their land and property. This is what happens when left to the free market.

A hike in the rent has ripple effects. Workshop owners will have to find the means to recoup the increased amount. They will offset the cost to their customers- those who bring their vehicle for repair and maintenance.

The service, the automobile workshops provide, is already expensive. The government must be bearing the brunt. They own fleets of pool vehicles. And we know they get spoilt comparatively easier to private vehicles. Unlike private owners, the pinch of repairing the car is not felt.

In the end, the losers are the growing number of vehicle owners and the government. Therefore, a solution has to be found. A long-term solution.

Negotiating a rent to settle the case is short term. This is not the first case. There had been about a dozen in the past. Even increasing 10 percent every two years, as per law, will cost all the partners. There will be a time when repairing a car in Thimphu is costlier than taking it down to Jaigaon and spend three days shopping. It is already happening, as the cost of spare parts and services in Thimphu shoots through the workshop roof.

The automobile workshop at Olakha was relocated as part of the grand vision planners had for the capital city. The idea was great. It was to develop it into a ‘model’ service centre with standard service backed by good infrastructure. The workshop is everything, but a model today.

It is ugly, disorganised, congested and a source of pollution. A solution that will work for all is finding a better alternative- a better location.

When planners identified Olakha as the site about two decades ago, it was not the best choice. It was the best available. We now know it’s not the best choice or the best site. Where are the wide roads, the landscaped gardens and the space to make it beautiful, as envisioned or planned?

A lot has been invested, both by landlords and workshop owners. Closing it down entirely will be expensive and greasy. The workshop has to be relocated in full or parts to the outskirts of the city. It will bring down house rent, cost of spare parts and services. It will open competition that will lead to quality service. If a workshop on the outskirts say Ramtokto or Hongtsho is spacious and equipped with technology and trained mechanics, many will not mind driving a few kilometres more.

Identifying and acquiring land is a problem. But the bigger problem is congesting the already congested city and the cost of maintaining vehicles.

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