Exports to Bangladesh set to resume through Bengal's Malda land port

Kolkata, Jun 3 (PTI) Exports to Bangladesh are set to resume via West Bengal's Malda district after traders agreed to a solution of creating a pool of drivers, who would work in batches to deliver consignments across the border and stay in an isolation centre after returning, an official said on Wednesday.

The mechanism at Mahadipur land port is set to start any moment, he said.

A pool of 50 local truck drivers will only be allowed to go up to Panama parking lot in Bangladesh, around 200 metres from the international border, and will return after unloading goods, he said, adding that they need not move anywhere else in the neighbouring country.

The drivers will work for 15 days. After that, another group of 50 drivers will carry out the activity, Mahadipur Exporters' Association secretary Prasenjit Ghosh said.

'Exports will resume on Thursday, if not Wednesday. We have agreed to follow the instructions given by the administration and notified the details to our members,' Ghosh told PTI.

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 they have to return by 6 pm.

'This is a workable model in the crisis period. But, this cannot be a long term solution,' Federation of Indian Exports Organisations regional chairman (east) Sushil Patwari said.

Exports to the neighbouring country through various land ports in West Bengal have not resumed as truckers apprehended that they would be quarantined after returning from Bangladesh.

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.

Every day, around 300 trucks laden with various goods go to Bangladesh through Mahadipur land port, and the average value of daily trade is estimated in the range of Rs 15-20 crore, the official of the exporters' body said. On the other side, there is is Sona Masjid, a land port in the Chapai- Nawabganj district of Bangladesh.

The issues related to exports through Petrapole land port that accounts for the majority of trade between India and Bangladesh, have not been resolved.

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

Even a plan to unload trucks at ground zero failed.

Asked whether the Mahadipur (Malda) model can be replicated, an official of the Petrapole land port authority said, 'The Malda arrangement was made by the district administration. A decision has to be taken at an appropriate level.' The FIEO on May 27 shot a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, highlighting plights of the small exporters and raising apprehensions about thousands of job losses.

Even as talks have gained momentum over trade through rail, road and waterways, exports are yet to resume. PTI BSM BDC BDC