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After customs, Bangla ire at hosts

Siliguri, Dec. 27: Bangladeshi officials today came down heavily on the hosts of a trade fair here, a day after participants at the Expo from the neighbouring country alleged harassment by the customs department.

The officials criticised the Indian Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) and Focin, a trade body based in north Bengal, for not describing Bangladesh as a partner country in the banners, posters and hoardings put up for the Second East Himalayan Expo.

“We have been invited to join the fair as partner country but the publicity material does not carry that,” said Shaikh Qamrul Hasan, the first secretary (commercial) of the Bangladesh deputy high commission in Calcutta.

“Despite being a fair for the common man, the site is located outside the town. This has led to a pathetic turnout. Hardly 1,000 people visited our pavilion yesterday,” Hasan added.

Some of the other complaints are lack of adequate transport facilities and seminars, and the absence of senior ITPO officials from Delhi at the inaugural function.

Dipten Basu, the regional manager of ITPO, admitted that some of the charges were justified. “There is no doubt that the site is outside Siliguri. If it was within the town, the turnout would have been at least 10 times more. We are distributing leaflets and making regular announcements to get more people to attend the fair.”

Basu added that a last minute confirmation from Bangladesh and some “technical difficulties” had come in the way of putting the name of the partner country in the publicity material.

Focin, however, has denied the charges. Biswajit Das, the Focin general secretary, said: “Thousands of visitors have visited the fair in the past two days. Today, at least 3,000 people were at the Expo and obviously they visited the Bangladesh pavilion.” The fair will conclude on December 31.

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