Demand to resume border trade

NEWDELHI: All the bordering countries of India on its Northeastern part-Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar have raised the issue of even limited resumption of border trade with the dreaded COVID-19 seemingly coming to a flat level in this part of the sub-continent.
Meghalaya government had already stopped border trade with Bangladesh to prevent any movement from across the border.
Besides, the lockdown has also affected the functioning of border hats in Meghalaya.
The four border hats in Tripura and Meghalaya along the India-Bangladesh frontier were closed as a precautionary measure against coronavirus.
The Manipur and Mizoram governments early last week also prohibited cross-border movement of people along India’s border with Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The four countries have demanded resumption of cross-border trade though in a limited way but with all precautions with the situation improving in the area.
While passenger services in this part of the globe were completely stopped, cargo movement was severely restricted.
Problems have started in Bangladesh with the beginning of Ramadan and starting of the sowing season and seeds largely go from India.
The problem for India has been compounded because Bangladesh has continued to provide transit facility for goods to the landlocked Northeast.
Specially, the West Bengal government has remained in a fix since the Centre has charged the state of not doing enough to combat the pandemic. But at the same time, it wants the state to allow the movement of cross-border trucks.
Many trucks carrying food and other items bound for these counties are stranded in borders in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya because of the ongoing lockdown. Though India’s trade with Myanmar is limited, the other three are critical.
According to reports, over 2,500 trucks are stuck at the Kalitala parking area and about 230 loaded trucks are stuck further ahead at Petrapole in West Bengal. Many trucks are also stranded in Assam and Meghalaya border.
Despite the challenges and concerns about public health, the bordering state governments barring West Bengal are working to ensure that India’s unavoidable obligations to its neighbours are fulfilled.
Earlier, health officials had been deployed at the border trade points to screen and test drivers and labourers associated with cross-border trade through infrared thermometers.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Foreigners Division (Immigration Section) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, in a memorandum on March 13, had restricted passenger movements between India and Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar.
According to the Customs officials, 20 Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) along India’s borders with Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar are still operational and through which cross-border trades could take place.
Of these 20 ICPs, the highest nine are along the India’s international borders in West
Bengal, followed by three in Assam, two each in Meghalaya and Mizoram, one each in Bihar, Tripura,Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

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