Trucks from Bhutan carrying boulders and stone chips to Bangladesh have driven into the new traffic rules and hefty fines implemented belatedly in Assam via a notification on September 23.Exporters from Bhutan said about 40 trucks were seized for overloading in western Assam’s Bongaigaon district on Thursday last. SAARC agreementThis, they pointed out, was done despite an agreement among the SAARC countries on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) allowing a third country to be used as a transit between two member countries without hindrance.SAARC expands to South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation. Its members are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.Ugyen Raften, the former president of the Indo-Bhutan Friendship Association, said Bhutanese traders have been transporting stone chips and other materials to Bangladesh for years without facing any problems. He admitted that some trucks carry more load than the standard 18 tonnes but SAFTA rules prohibit a transit country (India) from stopping consignments from an exporting country (Bhutan) to an importing country (Bangladesh).“Trucks from Gelephu in Bhutan regularly carry stone chips to Bangladesh via Dalu (Meghalaya-Bangladesh border). The goods and documents are sealed before the trucks enter Assam and, as per SAFTA rules, are to be opened at the destination after covering a distance of 321 km through Assam and Meghalaya. But the seizure and fines in Assam have put us in a spot,” he said.Mr. Raften said that scores of trucks had been stranded at Rakhaldubi in Assam for a week because of a damaged bridge at Tikrikilla in Meghalaya. The trucks were allowed to travel on Thursday night via a bypass but the last 40-odd trucks in the convoy ran into the police and motor vehicle inspectors.Subodh K. Sonowal, Bongaigaon district’s Superintendent of Police, said the police too had found the trucks overloaded. The new rules prescribe a fine of ₹20,000 for overloading and an additional ₹2,000 per extra tonne, as against ₹2,000 and ₹1,000 earlier. “The police did not confiscate the trucks. But the district transport office had some issues with them,” he said.