Exporters have demanded immediate resumption of India-Bangladesh trade through Hili land port in West Bengal as they have pegged an estimated loss of Rs 850 crore of businesses during the lockdown, traders said. Over 100 Bangladesh-bound trucks laden with onion, ginger, edible oil, chilli and stone chips are stuck at the land port in South Dinajpur district as the trade between the two countries has been remained suspended for nearly two months in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, they said.
“The border trade has been stopped for almost two months due to the lockdown, which has resulted in a trade loss of Rs 850 crore. How long can traders wait? We have demanded immediate reopening of exports and imports through the land port,” Hili Exports and Customs Clearing Agents Association secretary Sanjit Majumder said.
Over 30 trucks with onion are left stranded in and around the land port and the item will perish, if the border trade does not resume in a day or two, said a trader. “Trucks with onion worth Rs 90 lakh have been waiting to go to Bangladesh. We have loaded the goods from Murshidabad as traders have anticipated that the trade would resume soon,” an onion exporter Ramanath Saha said.
People, who are dependent on the border trade, have been struggling to make both ends meet, he said. Asked about the exporters’ demand, South Dinajpur district magistrate Nikhil Nirmal said the administration has not received any instruction to open the border trade route.
The initiative will be taken as soon as the instruction comes, he said. Incidentally, the Petrapole land port authorities were trying to hold talks with local people and the state government to resume Indo-Bangladesh trade, which was stopped on May 2 after two days of operation following protests by villagers.
They were afraid that truck drivers and labourers might spread coronavirus infection when they return from Benapole, located on the other side of the border.