BORDER VILLAGERS HEAVE A SIGH OF RELIEF
KOKRAJHAR: After sending packages of essential food items to 600 poor families of border villagers across the border in the Datgari and Hatisar areas of India during the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic a week ago, the Government of Bhutan has again come forward to help these border people tide over the crisis they have been facing owing to the shortage of Indian currency with them.
According to the Chairman of Hatisar VCDC Dheeraj Basnet, the border people on the Indian site suffered a crisis of Indian currency notes during the prolonged lockdown period. He said the Bhutan currency notes up to Gnaltrum (Rupee) 50 which is at par with the Indian currency is widely used and accepted by businessmen and traders in the border markets. The Bhutanese currency is commonly used by every individual in the border areas and the people of India used to go to Gelegphu town in Bhutan for daily needs. The Bhutanese people from the other side also come down to India for various essential items. On both sides of the border, the Indian currency and Bhutanese currency are accepted on equal value, he said, adding that after the sealing of International borders over the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the border people have been facing an acute shortage of Indian currency notes due to lack of exchanges. The issue compounded following the nationwide lockdown since the evening of March 23.
Basnet further said that most of the poor border villagers in India had Bhutanese currency but the shortage of Indian currency became a matter of concern. He further said that the villagers failed to exchange the Bhutanese currency notes available with them in the lockdown phase. Besides, these currency notes of Bhutan are not accepted in other places of the country except in the Datgari and Hatisar areas. He also said that the grocery shop owners and medical store owners of Datgari approached the 'Bhutan India Friendship Association' (BIFA) -- which has been playing crucial role for strengthening finest relationship with India especially across the border -- for providing Indian currencies to the border people of India to meet the shortage of Indian currency. He also said that they collected the Bhutanese currency notes available with the border villagers in India and sent the notes to Bhutan for providing Indian currency.
The president of the BIFA (Gelegphu chapter) Ugen Rabten -- who is widely known to the people of India especially in Kokrajhar, Chirang and Bongaigaon districts of lower Assam -- informed that he took up the matter raised by VCDC chairman of Hatisar Dheeraj Basnet and vice president of Chirang Duar Youth Wing BPF Robin Chumar and sought the support of Dasho Dzongdag of Sarpang Dzongkhag (District) in this regard. The Dasho, in turn, took up the matter with the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan for their final concurrence; and finally, the Dasho Dzongdag was conveyed of the approval to release INR 1.2 million (12,00,000), he said, adding that it was specifically ordered that proper COVID-19 protocol should be observed while handing and taking of the respective currencies.
"In this respect BIFA has been entrusted the responsibility to thoroughly count and ensure that there are no shortages and counterfeit notes. BIFA is also asked to inform the INR support recipient to strictly refrain from doing money exchange business which I presume is being done by some of them. With these conditions and responsibility entrusted to me and my team of members, I am sending you the forms to be filled up and completed in line with the Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) developed by the Bank of Bhutan Limited. Therefore, I take the pleasure to announce and at the same to request you to please ensure thorough counting of the notes and packing in individual packages with their names written on the package legibly", Rabten wrote to the VCDC chairman of the border area.
The VCDC chairman of Hatisar informed this correspondent that the Indian currency notes of Rs. 12,00,000 was handed over by the president of BIFA Ugen Rabten on behalf of the Government of Bhutan and the vice president of Chirang Duar Block Youth Wing BPF Robin Chumar received the exchanged Indian currency notes at the Gate of Bhutan on Saturday last. The border villagers heaved a sigh of relief after getting the Indian currency notes from Bhutan as they had failed to spend the Bhutanese currency available with them in any other place of the State. They thanked the BIFA for its proactive role for the border people and the Dasho Dzongdag of Sarpang for taking up the matter with the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan for releasing the Indian currency notes.