Trade between India and Bangladesh resumed on Thursday through the Petrapole- Benapole corridor, but West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerji appeared less than happy.
“How can the Indian central government take a decision like this without consulting our state government,” she told mediapersons in Kolkata..
The Petrapole-Benapole corridor on West Bengal’s border with Bangladesh’s Jessore accounts for nearly sixty percent of the $4-billion (nearly double the trade volume with Pakistan) bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh.
This is the largest land port of Asia, but it has gone to sleep since both India and Bangladesh enforced nationiwde lockdown to check the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to study by RITES, the goods traffic is approximately 400 trucks per day both ways, while the 2006 passenger traffic was about 1,159 people per day (both incoming and outgoing).
The total traffic in 2029-30 has been projected as 2,938 trucks per day and the passenger traffic by then will be 3,924 people per day.
Since the flow of trucks from the Indian side is much more than the one from Bangladesh to India, a huge row of trucks have been stranded at Petrapole on the Indian side due to the sudden declaration of the lockdown by PM Narendra Modi on March 24.
“We are all stuck because we got no time to pull back,” said truck driver Shivnath Singh from the northern state of Haryana.
Kartick Chakrabarty, president of the Carrying & Forwarding ( C&F) agents association at Petra[pole welcome the Indian government’s decision to resume trade through this land port.
” Perishables are already rotting in the trucks. With thousands of trucks stranded and the drivers and assistants stuck , it is a horrible situation. How can one practice social distancing to check Covid virus if so many people are forced to stay in such a small corridor,” Chakrabarty told Easternlink.
He also pointed to the crisis of essentials in Bangladesh to justify the reopening of trade on this corridor.
Chakrabarty said it has been decided to load and unload the trucks in the nomans land between the two countries — so an Indian truck will unload its goods there and a Bangladesh will load it up and carry it back to the final destination and vice versa.
But worried over the escalating Covid incidence in Bangladesh, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerji raised a stink.
“Who will be responsible if this huge movement of transport and people driving them and loading and unloading of trucks add the spread of the virus ! Why is Delhi never discussing these issues with us ? Our state may be affected badly ,” Banerji said.
The West Bengal government has been at daggers drawn with the Modi government in Delhi over the actual extent of Covid deaths in the state , the measures taken to enforce social distancing and much else.
Now trans-border trade has joined the list of contentious issues.