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Indian tourists without voter card barred from entering Bhutan

Friday, 12 April 20130 comments

Indian tourists without voter card barred from entering Bhutan

Rajesh Sharma

Jaigaon April 12: Thousands of tourists on their way to Phuentsholling, the gateway to the Royal Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan had to return back distressed as Bhutanese administration in the boarder town stopped many of them from entering without valid voter identity card, a rule that was until yesterday not applicable for the Indian citizens.

Until yesterday Indian residents from the Indian residents were allowed to enter upto 4 km in the Bhutan side and thousands of residents from Jaigaon and other Indian states used to enter the town without any documents being produced. According to the 1949 India-Bhutan treaty that was later revised in 2007 during when Pranab Mukherjee was the defence minister it was agreed in principal that upto 4 km in the Phuentsholling that there would be no restrictions for the Indian citizens.

However, it may be mentioned here that for the Bhutanese citizens there is no restrictions whatsoever from entering any corner of India. In the agreement it has also been notified that no passport is required for the citizens of either side to enter both sides. Despite all these the Bhutanese administration in the Phuentsholling side allowed entry of only those who had valid voter Identity cards. As a result many tourists wanting to visit the town returned back with sad face.

Asked about sudden change in the rule Bhutanese home minister Lempo Minjo Dorjee told Himalayan Mirror that no rule has been formulated as such that a voter card in a must for entering the border but there was an order from the government to check on the cards keeping in mind the security of the country adding that the exercise is also because of the ensuing general elections.

The consulate general of Bhutan in Kolkata Tshering Wada however said that he had no information on the happenings but said an inquiry would be made soon.

A tourist who was sent back from the Bhutan gate however said, “It is amazing that we were not allowed to enter with the ID proof when the Bhutanese residents are frequently coming to any part of India without any document. This could well make the relationship bitter in the coming days between the two countries”.
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