Bangladesh upheaval hits trade with Tripura

Agartala, March 29 (IANS) Just when things were stabilising and Tripura was hoping for a turnover of Rs.500 crore ($90 million) in the 2012-13 fiscal ending March 31, the fresh upheaval in Bangladesh has adversely affected cross-border trade and the target might not be met, an official said.

“Due to the problems in that country, the target might not be achieved,” Tripura Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Makhan Lal Debnath told IANS.

Traders of both the countries are incurring huge business loss while the Tripura government and others in the northeast are staring at major revenue losses.

“In normal times, over 200 trucks from Bangladesh entered India every day through the Akhaurah checkpost alone (in Tripura), but due to domestic and political troubles in that country only 50 trucks are coming daily,” Debnath said.

“The situation along the India-Bangladesh trading points (Land Customs Stations-LCS) with Meghalaya and Assam is same. There is no sign of the situation improving soon,” he added.

Traders said that successive strikes, agitations and violent protests in Bangladesh and the adverse security situation have affected trade at all land custom stations in Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya.

“In view of the fall in trade, the northeastern states have been facing huge shortages of fish and commodities like stone chips, cement and electronic goods,” said Babul Roy, an importer.

Bangladeshi truck drivers are also unwilling to ply their vehicles in the trouble-torn situation.

“When we ply our trucks, the agitators attack us on the roads and damage our vehicles and goods,” Matiur Rahman, a truck driver from Brahmanbaria in eastern Bangladesh, said at the Akhaurah checkpost.

A majority of the Indian workers associated with India-Bangladesh trade have also become jobless due to the fall in the export-import business.

“Over 700 workers are involved in the trading activities at the Akhaurah checkpost and others in Tripura. The majority of the workforce, besides drivers and their assistants, is now unemployed,” Habul Biswas, general secretary of the Agartala Exporters-Importers Association, told IANS.

Akhaurah is one of the most important international land trading ports in northeastern India after the Petrapol-Banepole checkpost in West Bengal with an average of 200 to 230 Bangladeshi trucks coming to Tripura every day.

Four northeastern states – Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam – share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh and a large number of people reside just along the border.

Ganajagaran Mancha, a platform of intellectuals and activists, has been organising protests across Bangladesh since Feb 5 to press its demand for the death penalty for all war criminals during the country’s liberation from Pakistan in 1971 and a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, an organisation backed by fundamentalists.

In contrast, Bangladeshi opposition parties have been also observing strikes, agitations and violent protests across the country to oppose the government’s move to punish those guilty of war crimes. They are also demanding that the general election due early next year be held under a neutral government.

To increase trade, Bangladesh and India have agreed to set up a number of ‘Border Haats’ (border markets) along the frontier, which, when opened, are expected to witness bilateral trade worth Rs. 108 crore ($20 million) every year.

India and Bangladesh set up the first such ‘Border Haat’ at Kalaichar in Meghalaya’s West Garo Hills district in 2011.

Dhaka and New Delhi are keen to set up eight more border markets along the India-Bangladesh border in the northeastern states.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at [email protected])

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