Ur­gent need for im­prov­ing co­or­di­na­tion and cor­po­ra­tion for bet­ter re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity

Bhutan Times - - Home - Sonam Pen­jor

To en­sure bet­ter re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity and safety of Bhutanese trav­ellers out­side Bhutan, there is an ur­gent need for im­prov­ing co­or­di­na­tion and cor­po­ra­tion among dif­fer­ent min­istries and de­part­ments of the gov­ern­ments. This was find­ing of in­de­pen­dent study car­ried out by Bhutan Me­dia and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions In­sti­tute (BMCI).

The find­ings and the rec­om­men­da­tions were shared dur­ing the stake­hold­ers meet­ing on “Trade, Trans­port and Tran­sit Fa­cil­i­ta­tion in the sub-re­gion,” last Thurs­day.

The par­tic­i­pants in­cluded from gov­ern­ment, cor­po­rate, pri­vate sec­tors, Civil So­ci­ety Or­ga­ni­za­tion (CSO), in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and me­dia agen­cies.

The pre­sen­ta­tion from the BMCI showed that there are dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers in­volved in trad­ing, start­ing from farm­ers, truck­ers, bro­kers, sup­port ser­vice providers along the high­way, pol­icy mak­ers, check points (cus­toms, im­mi­gra­tions, BAFRA) man­ual work­ers, clear­ing agen­cies etc.

BMCI direc­tor, Pushpa Ch­hetri said that Bhutan is de­pen­dent on trad­ing to ful­fill our ba­sic needs like rice, cloth­ing and re­li­gious ar­ti­facts mostly im­ported from In­dia, Bangladesh, and Nepal. On the other hand it is ex­tremely im­por­tant to find mar­ket out­side Bhutan to ex­port for ru­pee and dol­lar earn­ing.

The study found out that con­di­tion of the road in­fra­struc­ture, fa­cil­i­ties at the LCS, skills, in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity and use of tech­nol­ogy de­ter­mine the trade flows and the qual­ity of peo­ple’s lives.

Af­ter the find­ing and through study, BMCI rec- om­mended in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ment of in­te­grated cross-bor­der check­points, need to di­ver­sify traf­fic, en­cour­age women par­tic­i­pants, im­prove road and trans­port in­fra­struc­ture. The rec­om­men­da­tion also in­cludes en­cour­age and fa­cil­i­tate 24/7 sup­port ser­vice along the high way, need for al­ter­na­tive trade route, equip­ping the check­points, town plan­ning and cross bor­der co­or­di­na­tion.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded need for stor­age fa­cil­i­ties in all the Dzongkhags, ex­plor­ing multi-model and green trans­port, rais­ing aware­ness among dif­fer­ent stake­holder, etc.

BMCI con­ducted this study in Bhutan as a part of a larger study in the sub re­gion con­sti­tut­ing Myan­mar, Nepal, Bhutan, In­dia and Bangladesh.

This in­de­pen­dent study mapped the per­cep­tions of se­lected stake­hold­ers in Bhutan on the cur­rent state of trad­ing through the jour­ney of three prod­ucts im­ported and ex­ported to and from In­dia, Bangladesh and Nepal. It at­tempts to give a peo­ple cen­tric ap­proach by study­ing the im­pact on liveli­hood, gen­der and poverty re­duc­tion.

Mean­while, Bhutan im­port ready­made gar­ment from Bangladesh, rice from In­dia and hand­i­craft/statue from Nepal and Bhutan ex­port an ap­ple, fer­rosil­i­con and gyp­sum.

The cor­ri­dors se­lected for the study are Thim­phu, Phuentshol­ing, Jaigaon, Changra­bandha, Buri­mari, Dhaka and Pema­gat­shel, Sam­druo­jongkhar, Ron­gia, Bi­rath­na­gar.

The study high­lighted that liveli­hood of cer­tain stake­hold­ers like truck­ers, la­bor­ers, and sup­port ser­vice providers in bor­der towns are di­rectly de­pen­dent on the vol­ume of trade. If one side is af­fected by po­lit­i­cal prob­lems then trade on the other is af­fected ad­versely.

While trad­ing has opened up sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties for women to be en­gaged in eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties, they have mostly taken over the roles of ser­vice providers along the high­way and nearby bor­der­ing towns and in­dus­tries.

Women are en­gaged more in ad­min­is­tra­tive work, sales and sup­port staff. For in­stance, most of the hand­i­craft and ready­made gar­ment shops have em­ployed 98 per­cent women in sales.

The study shows that the fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion is very low in South Asia, while the trad­ing has opened up sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties for women to be en­gaged in eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties. Such en­gage­ments de­pend on the na­ture of the work. For e.g. there are no women truck driv­ers in Bhutan although there are many light ve­hi­cle driv­ers.

Clar­i­fy­ing why the liveli­hoods of peo­ple in cer­tain groups like farm­ers, peo­ple re­sid­ing in bor­der towns, truck­ers and women war­ranted sep­a­rate men­tion, Pushpa Ch­hetri said that, “The study is peo­ple cen­tric and the lives and liveli­hoods of vul­ner­a­ble groups need spe­cial at­ten­tion from all stake­hold­ers.”

The study shows that for peo­ple re­sid­ing at the bor­der towns of Phuentshol­ing and Jaigaon, liveli­hood con­cerns of peo­ple liv­ing on one side of the bor­der are echoed by peo­ple en­gaged in sim­i­lar ac­tiv­i­ties on the other side.

In Phuentsholling, if one side is af­fected by po­lit­i­cal prob­lems than other side’s trade is also af­fected.

The direc­tor of Con­sumer util­ity and Trust So­ci­ety, Kolkata, Bratin­dra Bhat­tacharya ex­pressed his ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the par­tic­i­pants and said that the feed­back and sug­ges­tions pro­vided by the group were very valu­able and would be con­sid­ered for in­clu­sion wher­ever ap­pro­pri­ate in the re­port.

Mean­while, as a part of the project, BMCI con­ducted four di­a­logues in Bhutan to val­i­date their find­ings as well as create pub­lic aware­ness on re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity.

The par­tic­i­pants were from gov­ern­ment, cor­po­rate, pri­vate sec­tor, CSO, in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and me­dia agen­cies.

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