Centre plea for those stranded in Bangladesh
The Centre has repeated its request to the Bengal government to let in 2,680 people from the state, who are stranded in Bangladesh since the nationwide lockdown was imposed in March, through two of the six land borders between the two countries.
“Our Mission in Dhaka has once again reported that 2,399 people are seeking to return to Bengal from Bangladesh through the Petrapole-Benapole integrated checkpost and a further 281 citizens are seeking to do so through the Phulbari-Banglabandha land border,” reads a letter by Vikram Doraiswami, additional secretary of ministry of external affairs to the Bengal chief secretary, Rajiva Sinha.
Sources in Nabanna said that the Centre had sent similar letters in the past few weeks requesting it to allow the citizens to enter the state through land borders as they cannot afford to fly under the Vande Bharat evacuation mission.
A senior state government official said the (Bengal) government was considering the request. “...A mechanism could be worked out soon to bring the stranded people back,” the official said.
The letter from Doraiswami, who is likely to take charge of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka later this year, says that most of the stranded people are unskilled or semi-skilled labourers or poor people who had gone to visit relatives in rural Bangladesh.
“Many are living in extreme distress, including sheltering in school verandah or public parks...,” reads the letter.
“We are trying to solve problems one by one. We resolved the issue of trade through land borders with a mechanism to ensure that Covid does not spread in the bordering areas. We will take up this (repatriation) issue soon,” said a bureaucrat.
The MEA wrote that railways could arrange special trains to bring back stranded people once the Bengal government approved it.
Sources in the state government said it could be the best possible solution but the Centre had to ensure health screening of the stranded people before they board the trains.
“We had proposed it during an informal conversation with the centre. Now it has to be seen what steps the Centre is taking to ensure that the passengers are screened properly and they are sent to institutional quarantine facilities after returning to India,” said an official.