Reciprocal Transport Agreement (2022) Between Sikkim & West Bengal

Around 10 lakh domestic and 40000 foreign tourists visit Sikkim and North Bengal every year. From New Jalpaiguri Station or Bagdogra Airport in North Bengal, the tourists need to hire a car to reach Sikkim. But due to some complications, the transporters and the tourists faced many problems, as there was no revision in the transport agreement between West Bengal and Sikkim.

Impact Of Reciprocal Transport Agreement (2022) between West Bengal-Sikkim On Travel

The Earlier Problems

In 2007, a transport pact was signed between the two states. But there were flaws in the agreement as per many transporters. Because of the restrictions, both the transporters and the tourists would face these problems-

  • The vehicles of West Bengal did not get permits to visit all the tourist places of Sikkim. They got permits from Sikkim for Gangtok, Namchi, and Pelling. Similarly, Sikkim vehicles got permits from West Bengal for only Darjeeling, Siliguri, and Kalimpong. So, if you were planning to visit other places in Sikkim like Gurudongmar Lake, Nathula Pass, and Zuluk with a car registered in West Bengal, this old agreement would not help.
  • There were multiple reports of tourist harassment at the Deorali Motor stand in Gangtok. As per the reports, some of the tourists who came from West Bengal by registered cars were asked to reach the hotel by local transport with Sikkim registration numbers.
  • Also, in both states, local sightseeing is allowed only by the local transporters.
  • According to the 2007 agreement, separate quotas were fixed for Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, and All Bengal Permits for good carriages registered in West Bengal.
  • For the Sikkim transporters, two counter-signature permits were required from the Darjeeling district and the Jalpaiguri district.
  • The commercial vehicles running between Gangtok and Jorethang in South Sikkim had to pass through a route, some parts of which fell in West Bengal, and they faced problems due to not having permits. Vehicles between Rangpo and Melli also had difficulties not having counter-signature permits.
  • Each state would grant permits to only 2500 contract carriages which were not sufficient.

Because of these reasons, the transporters of both states would have faced severe problems doing business and maintaining official records and the tourists also suffered. Due to the vast increase in the number of passengers between the states, the problem is exacerbated. They have been raising these issues and demanding change for a long time.

Transport Associations of Sikkim claimed to issue permits from a single point of the State Transport Authority office in Siliguri. They also demanded to merge all the quotas. The Himalayan Hospitality and Tourism Development Network (HHTDN) also demanded to review of the reciprocal agreement, and they submitted a memorandum in 2018.

So, there was a need to improvise the existing 2007 agreement. The travel industry, which suffered losses from the Pandemic, also had to turn around. When the travel restrictions loosened, both states reviewed it and crafted the Reciprocal Transport Agreement 2022.

How Will The New Transport Agreement Impact On Travel?

On 5th July 2022, at Mayfair Tea Resort, Siliguri, a new Reciprocal Transport Agreement (2022) was signed between Sri Firhad Hakim, Hon’ble Minister In-Charge of Transport Department, Govt. of West Bengal and Sri Sanjeet Kharel, Hon’ble Minister In-Charge of Transport Department, Govt. of Sikkim. The governments penned it to solve all the problems above. According to the new transport agreement, both the transporters and tourists will get benefits in these ways-

  • Now all the vehicles will get free movement in both states because “All Bengal Permit” will be issued for Sikkim vehicles, and “All Sikkim permit” will be issued for Bengal vehicles except for restricted and protected areas.
  • The transporters need not go to Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri separately for counter-signature permits because, as per the new agreement, from a single point of the State Transport Authority Office in Siliguri, the counter-signature permits will be given.
  • West Bengal Government agreed to provide a “corridor facility” for Sikkim-based vehicles running through Rangpo and Melli on the West Bengal side without counter signature permits.
  • Under the new pact, each state will give permits to 3000 contract carriages instead of 2500 contract carriages.

Thus, the New Transport Reciprocal Agreement will ease the transportation between West Bengal and Sikkim and help the transporters, tourists, and the whole tourism industry. As a result, tourism will be easier and cheaper. If you are planning to visit Sikkim from West Bengal or vice versa, there will be no hassle or complication in any way. So, the new transport agreement will definitely be beneficial for travel. Apart from this agreement, the recent extension of Darjeeling Mail service to Haldibari will also help tourism.

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Author, NatureDiary
Koyeli is a travel blogger and photographer on NatureDiary. She has an enormous experience in travelling, trekking and hiking across India. Backed by an M.Sc. degree in environmental science, Koyeli writes travel content based on her experience at various tourist attractions and travel destinations.

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