Showing posts with label Nepal Earthquake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nepal Earthquake. Show all posts

25 May 2015

Indian Cars with White Number Plates

It's said that the Nepal earthquake disaster was a big blow to Himalayan tourism, which seems to be true looking at the huge drop in the number of western tourists visiting us at this time of the year. However, it hasn't deterred Indian tourists. Thimphu and Paro are filled with Indian visitors these days. Along with them, countless Indian cars have entered deep into our country when we have enough of our own taxis and tourist cars lying idle this season.

Why are Indian tourists not taking Bhutanese cars?

The short answer is the affordability. Most Indian tourists love to travel cheap. But the bigger question is how could Indian cars offer such competitive price that the Bhutanese can't beat. There comes the logical reasoning. It's like buying one item from a legitimate shop at certain rate and another exactly same one from footpath at almost half the price. The footpath guy could sell at cheaper price because he didn't have to pay any form of tax.
 White Number Plate. Courtesy:
There are two types of Indian Cars coming into our country, one with white number plate that are private cars and other with yellow number plate that are taxis. The yellow ones are rare, even across the border. Why would anyone want to register one's car as taxi and pay commercial taxes when one can easily use private cars as taxis. There must be regulations on paper but our neighbour across the border didn't find it necessary to bring that regulation on the street.

West Bengal Taxi, which is hard to see
Indian cars neither have to pay import tax, nor green tax, which places then at an advantage over Bhutanese cars. On top of that, without the mandate to register their cars as taxis, the cars with white number plates are bypassing every local tax in the land. This is how they easily beat our cars in the market. Nothing surprising.

Indian tourists don't have to pay $250 per day, in fact they don't spend that much during their entire tour. The tour operators across the borders use the cheapest hotels in Bhutan, and send in their own cars, thereby contributing almost nothing to our revenue. If carefully calculated, we might find out that they contribute more in polluting our air than building our economy. Not to mention the pressure the additional cars put on our fuel supply.

Considering all these, I feel our government should take a simple decision to disallow Indian cars beyond Rinchending (Kharbandi) or allow only those cars with yellow number plates, which is helping India curb the problem of illegal taxis. Any of the two decisions would compel the Indian tour operators to hire Bhutanese cars or tourist buses, contributing more to our economy and livelihood of people living on transport business.

One Bhutanese tour guide per group should be made mandatory for the safety of Indian visitors, to give them right guidance, sensitise them to the local culture and habits, especially while visiting the Dzongs and Lhakhangs. This will ensure that our visitors will have the best travelling experience, our roadsides will be clean, our culture respected and our tour guides have constant source of income. Happiness then is truly a place.

29 April 2015

What Can Bhutan Learn From Nepal Earthquake?

Earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015 measuring 7.9 magnitude almost flattened the populated city of Kathmandu. As I watched the news unfold on TV, the Death toll rose swiftly as bodies were dug out of endless rubbles days after the first tremor.

The earthquake triggered avalanche on the south face of Mt. Everest killing over a dozen climbers and injuring many more. Few hundred mountaineers are believed to be lost.
Remains of Iconic 19th Century Tower, Nepal (From WSJ)

It's reported that over 31 aftershocks and 2 fresh earthquake happened since then some of which we felt here in Bhutan. These hindered the relief efforts and sent waves of panic among the already devastated survivors. Bad weather made the lives of homeless victims and their search for loved ones excruciating.

As the cameras go beyond Kathmandu and below the Everest I fear the death toll will sky rocket. It's already 4600, rising at the rate of over 1000 per day.

As is always said, earthquakes don't kill, just imagine, our cars shake more when travelling on rough roads than any violent earthquake. It's the collapsing structures that bury people alive and take hundreds of lives. We have to assess our homes and move into better homes because we don't know when the next earthquake will strike.

Temples can't protects themselves though thousands of devotees for ages have gone to seek protection from them. In fact, ancient temples are sure burial places because they don't have load bearing columns. Our heritage buildings like Dzongs and Lhakhangs will face the same fate if we don't reinforce with steel columns. Buildings in our new towns may survive because of our stringent construction laws.

When the earth shakes we are just concerned about our house and TV but we have to know that high up in our mountains we have himalayan tsunami of snow and glacier waiting to happen. Avalanches could burst our glacier lakes and when we lest expect our valleys could be flooded. Are we prepared?

Our telecommunication gets clogged even during a regional event like Tshechus, and during the 2011 earthquake we have seen how badly prepared we are in that term. We haven't improved an inch. Power lines will fail us too and roads will be disconnected. In fact, Nepal has shown us all the horror we too could face, all we need to do is prepare beyond duck, cover and hold.

Bhutan's Last Earthquake
What will make the everything worse is the rumours some evil minds cook up. If someone knew when the next earthquake would happen, world would pay him million dollar for his service. It's also the fault of people who help spread the rumour by calling all their relatives and friends to tell them to sleep outside, and interestingly they obediently follow and make an extra effort to call more people. Be informed that no prediction, no matter where you heard from, is true when it comes to earthquake therefore just avoid them.

My post from 2011 Earthquake in Bhutan