Nathu La border traders want limits of vehicles and traders visiting TAR raised

Report by: 
SUJAL PRADHAN
Gangtok
20 Aug 2018

Associations of traders engaged in border trade between India and China across the Nathu La border in Sikkim have threatened to stop trading till their demands to increase the number of vehicles and traders allowed to pass in a day to Rinchengang trade mart in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China are met. Associations of traders on Monday visited the office of the District Collector and submitted their demand in the form of a memorandum.
President of the Joint Action Committee of Nathula Traders Association S. T. Bhutia informed that at present 60 vehicles and 40 traders were allowed to visit the Rinchengang trade mart in Chinese territory for trading. This number was fixed in 2006 and it remained the same though the number of traders from Sikkim engaged in Nathu La trade had increased to 500 at present. “Now we want these limits on numbers to be raised from 40 to 100 in case of traders and 60 to 100 in case of drivers,” Bhutia said. “Until and unless our demand to increase the numbers of traders and drivers of vehicles is fulfilled, we are not going to participate in trade and we will daily visit the office of the D.C.”
Explaining the urgency of the need to increase the number of vehicles allowed to cross the border, he explained: “Since a limited or rather a very small number of vehicles are allowed cross the border in a day, it is causing our traders to rush towards the border at high speed overtaking each other to reach Nathu La sooner than the others. On the slopy and risky road to Nathu La, this is putting their lives at risk.”
At present, the scenario was that whoever reached Nathu La first was allowed cross the border. “This is unfair and we also demand that the authorities come up with some arrangement so that all get equal opportunities tol trade,” Bhutia said. The Joint Action Commitee is a joint forum of  Nathula Trade Welfare Association and India China Border Trade Welfare Association.
Senior trader of Gangtok Anil Gupta who is engaged in Nathu La trade said this year the trading was going on well across the border in terms of volume. But increasing the number of vehicles that were allowed to cross the border was a long-standing demand of traders. Over the years, trading across Nathu La border has increased in popularity. In 2017, in the wake of the Doklam stand-off between Indian and Chinese armies, pilgrimage to Kailash – Mansarovar across Nathu La was suspended but in case of border trade it was business as usual. Ever since the resumption of border trade across Nathu La in 2006, the highest figures for volumes of trade were achieved in 2016 when the value of export was estimated at Rs 63.38 crore and the value of import at Rs 19.3 crore.