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Traffic to Assam halts

May 5: The recent violence in Baksa and Kokrajhar districts of Assam that has claimed over 30 lives and left several people homeless has also halted the movement of trucks and private buses from Siliguri to the neighbouring state and other northeastern areas.

While most buses that ply from Siliguri to Assam have been off roads for the past three-four days, trucks are stuck at the Bengal-Assam border for two days now.

At Jorai More in Baxirhat, Cooch Behar, over 1,000 Assam-bound trucks are stranded near Chagolia check post.

Jorai More is around 175km from Siliguri and 35km from Cooch Behar town.

“My truck is loaded with rice and flour. We do not think it is safe to enter the state now,” said Sikandar Singh, a truck driver from Haryana. “I have been at the (Bengal-Assam) border for the past two days and calling up my acquaintances in Assam at regular intervals to know whether normalcy has been restored.”

Hundreds of trucks, with several items like food grains, garments, manufacturing goods and even cars and motorcycles, are stuck at Baburhat More and near Chakchaka Industrial Estate, both on the outskirts of Cooch Behar town.

“We cannot afford to take risk. There is no information on whether Assam government and security forces would provide cover to our vehicles. We are apprehensive of attacks,” said Ravi Yadav, a trucker from Madhya Pradesh, who has been waiting at Baburhat More for two days.

Mridulanand Sarma, the superintendent of police, Dhubri, said: “A six-hour strike (from 6am) was called today by Muslim United Student Association. After it ended at 12pm, some vehicles started crossing the border and entering Assam. Security forces have been deployed to ensure security of vehicles moving in the area.”

Cooch Behar police chief Anup Jaiswal said: “We have alerted border areas like Baxirhat and beefed up security.”

In Siliguri, private bus owners who run vehicles to Tezpur, Guwahati, Lakhimpur, Silapata and other places in Assam said most buses are off roads for the past three-four days.

“Around 20 buses ply between Siliguri and Assam daily of them 15 are off roads now. Usually, each bus gets full with 40-50 passengers. But for the past few days, only four-five buses have been going towards Assam, each with 15-20 people,” said Santosh Saha, the president of Siliguri Bus Owners’ and Agents’ Association. “If there is no change in the situation by the end of this week, we will approach the chief through north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb and urge her to take up the issue with Assam so that security of our vehicles and passengers can be ensured.”

Clearing agents, who help truckers get their documents cleared at the check posts of both states have been hit hard.

Swapan Das, secretary of Baxirhat Byabsayee Samiti, said: “Similar is the condition in the markets as people from Dhubri and Kokrajhar come here. We are finding only few customers.” In Barobisha, 4km from the border, the weekly market was empty today. “We faced huge losses. Weekly markets at Tamarhat, Haropota, Gosaigaon, Pakhriguri and other places in Assam, where we go, were not held.”

At least 50 families have fled Kokrajhar and are staying with relatives in Kumargram in Alipurduar.