| Phuentsholing, a border town in Bhutan
Siliguri, Nov. 26: India and Bhutan have planned to jointly celebrate the golden jubilee of Jawaharlal Nehru’s first visit to the Himalayan kingdom next year.
The tour of India’s first Prime Minister in September 1958 was the beginning of a new relationship between the two countries — something that both the governments felt should be “honoured”. The final decision on the celebrations was taken at a meeting held in Thimphu last week.
“It was only after Nehru’s visit that the first motorable road to Bhutan was made. We felt the memory of the start of the new relationship should be honoured. The celebrations will include exhibitions, discussions on several bilateral issues and cultural programmes. The details, however, are yet to be chalked out by representatives of both countries,” said B.L. Meena, the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri division, who led the Indian team.
The meeting spread over three days was attended by officials of the forest and police departments, the district magistrates of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri — the two north Bengal districts that share the border with Bhutan — and their counterparts from the Himalayan kingdom.
Some of the other issues that were discussed were:
lThe tracking down of criminals who flee the country to hide in Bhutan. A core committee comprising police officials from north Bengal and Bhutan would be formed to check this trend. The committee members would exchange information and also work on an absconders’ list. Criminals out on bail or those accused in accident cases and petty crimes often escape to Bhutan to evade arrest.
lClearing encroachments along the border, especially in the populated areas. In many border towns and villages, unauthorised buildings and hutments come up. To ensure that there is a clear view of the border for security reasons, the local administrations on both sides would take steps to clear the encroachments.
lDevelopment of roads and traffic system in bordering towns like Jaigaon and Phuentsholing, which regularly face traffic congestion, and exchange of information among foresters to stop poaching and smuggling of wild animals.
Dolomite mining too was discussed. The Bhutan government had shut down two of the five mines after India voiced its concern. Dolomite dust not only pollutes rivers coming down to the Dooars from the Bhutan hills, but also affects forests and tea gardens.
The remaining mines, the Bhutan government has promised, will be run on suggestions forwarded by Indian foresters and experts.
The Bhutan delegation, Meena said, was represented by Daso Wangda, the deputy home secretary, Lt Col Tashi Dhendup of Royal Bhutan Army, representatives from the departments of mining, forests and environment and district officials of Samchi and Chukha.