India-Bangladesh land-route trade resumes in West Bengal

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After Indian traders agreed to create a pool of truck drivers, who would work in shifts to deliver consignments across the India-Bangladesh land border in West Bengal and stay in an isolation centre after returning, exports to Bangladesh are expected to resume soon through the state’s Malda district. The process at Mahadipur land port may start any moment.

A pool of 50 drivers will be allowed to go only up to the Panama parking lot in Bangladesh, around 200 metres from the international border, and will return after unloading goods, a news agency reported quoting an Indian official. The drivers will work for 15 days. After that, another group of 50 drivers will carry out the activity, according to Mahadipur Exporters’ Association secretary Prasenjit Ghosh. The drivers, who will enter Bangladesh, will have to stay in an isolation centre, close to the border, during non- working hours, he said. The exporting vehicles can enter the neighbouring country between 8 am and 4 pm and have to return by 6 pm.

Federation of Indian Exports Organisations regional chairman (east) Sushil Patwari feels this is a workable model during the COVID-19 crisis, but not a long-term solution. The trade between the two countries takes place through the land ports at Mahadipur in Malda district, Changrabandha in Cooch Behar, Fulbari in Jalpaiguri, Hilli in South Dinajpur, Ghojadanga and Petrapole in North 24-Parganas district among others.

The state government allowed resumption of exports on May 11, following the central government’s notification on cross-border trade, but fear among locals over the spread of the novel coronavirus from the returning truckers prevented trade to take off.