BBIN on the cards again

Usha Drukpa

With the government, national council (NC) and the opposition still at a deadlock on the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicle agreement, the forthcoming parliament session, will see the issue being deliberated at a joint sitting.  On one side are the NC and the opposition and on the other the government.

After objections from the upper house in the last parliament, a joint committee comprising of 12 members, four from the ruling party, three from the opposition, and five from the NC, was formed to iron out the differences. However, with members holding their fort, there has not been much progress.

The Chairman of the joint committee, Member of the National Assembly from Tashicholing, Ritu Raj Chhetri, said that there are 15 disputed points that the committee couldn’t resolve.

“We tried and are trying our best to iron out our differences. But even after rounds of meetings, the outcome remains inconclusive,” he said.

The Chairman said that BBIN is a very important agreement, which will open avenues to a host of benefits.” Our economy will grow and we can even sell our hydro-energy to Bangladesh and others,” he added.

He further said that one main reason that the opposing members cite is free vehicle movement, which would cause pollution. “But because we are situated in the Indian sub-continent, and pollution is a trans-boundary issue, whether we agree to BBIN or not, we can do nothing much on the pollution issue, even we if we refrain from signing this regional pact,” said the MP.

About the concerns raised by the truckers, the MP said that “they shouldn’t worry.” “It is not a concern but an opportunity that we are creating for them. Once we sign this agreement, our truckers will be open to enter markets in Nepal, Bangladesh and India,” he said.

He further said that there is a misconception about the agreement among transporters. “By signing this agreement, it doesn’t mean that all the vehicles from the member countries can commute in our country. We still have a room for negotiation. We will put a limit for the foreign vehicles coming in so that our transporters are not affected,” said the Chairman.

The main issue at the moment, he said, is to build consensus and submit the report to the parliament.

Meanwhile, the opposition members mentioned that the bill must be put to vote as per the rules of procedure. “Thus, there is no question of withdrawing when they feel that they cannot garner enough support for the Bill from the members,” said an Opposition Party member.

However, the Council is still open for deliberation. “We are negotiating and trying to find a way out,” said the deputy chairperson of the NC, Tshering Dorji.

Meanwhile, truckers said that they are concerned about their business. “If we allow the foreign truckers to ply in our highways, our bread will be taken away,” said a trucker.

He mentioned that signing the agreement will pose a serious threat to the security and sovereignty of our country. “But we have also been told that it will not affect us. We need to understand the issue properly,” he said.

Another Trucker said that even without any agreement, foreign truckers and other vehicles commute freely. “Thus, I see not much of a threat to us,” he said.

“The only concern is losing business. Today, we do not need to look for markets outside since there are enough business opportunities in Bhutan. Our concern is that with BBIN, we may have to explore beyond Bhutan.”

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