Want cheaper fuel? Visit this border outpost in Bhutan

first_imgDecades of informal trade between Assam and Bhutan, disrupted by insurgency, took a formal shape with the inauguration of a border trade centre at Darranga on Wednesday.About 90 km north of Guwahati, Darranga in Baksa district under Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) adjoins Samdrup Jongkhar, a major trade point in southern Bhutan.Besides oranges and potatoes, Bhutan exports some items produced by five industrial units near Samdrup Jongkhar. They include gypsum, ferro-silicon and iron nails.Attraction: cheap fuelFor Indians the real big attraction across the border is not iron and nails but is fuel — ironically imported from India. A litre of diesel and petrol in Bhutan averages ₹54 and ₹59 respectively, about ₹20-25 cheaper than the nearest oil outlet in Assam, where a litre of diesel is about ₹75 and petrol is ₹84.“I have four commercial vehicles, including two dumpers. The day I fill up all the four vehicles, I save more than ₹10,000. Cheaper fuel across the border is probably the reason why we do not have a fuel outlet despite the town developing into a major trade centre,” Ikram Ali, a Darranga-based contractor, said.Locals used to buy fuel in jerry cans from the lone outlet in Samdrup Jongkhar – about 500 metres from the trade centre on a 45-acre plot – but restrictions by Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and police put a stop to it six months ago. People in Assam, though, can get their vehicles filled across the border.The trade centre was completed in fiscal 2016-17 with ₹14.03 crore provided by the Centre under the Assistance to States for Development of Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities scheme. Though the centre started in fiscal 2017-18 to notch up ₹ 234.74 crore in exports to and ₹126.96 crore in import from Bhutan, the Government opened it formally on Wednesday.Has trade history “We have a history of trade with Bhutan through nine points along the border with Assam. But we could not give it a formal shape because of certain situations. We hope the trade centre would benefit the local economy,” Hagrama Mohilary, the Chief Executive Member of BTC and a former extremist, said.Bhutan made him nostalgic because of “days spent there”, referring to the time he headed the now-disbanded Bodo Liberation Tigers. Many insurgent outfits, including the United Liberation Front of Asom, had camps near Samdrup Jongkhar until they were dismantled during a joint operation by Indian and Bhutanese forces more than a decade ago.“This centre has been possible because of the change the people have sought. We hope it will strengthen trade and cultural ties with Bhutan,” Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said after its inauguration. A four-lane highway along the 264-km border with Bhutan that the Centre has approved for better connectivity is on the cards. “Among others, we are starting work on developing Rupsi Airport from October,” he added.last_img

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