Delhi push for Bangla trade
Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to Bengal chief secretary Rajiva Sinha on Wednesday, directing the state government to allow transportation of essential goods through all entry points on the Bangladesh border without any delay.
“You are, therefore, again directed to allow cross land border transportation through all Indo-Bangladesh borders without any further delay and send the compliance report on opening of cross land border by today itself,” wrote Bhalla.
He wrote the Centre had through a letter on April 24 directed that transportation of essential goods should be allowed through borders with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. The Union home secretary on Wednesday wrote that goods traffic through border crossings between India and Bangladesh was yet to resume despite the directions.
“This act of the state government of West Bengal, amounts to violation of the orders issued by the MHA under the Disaster Management Act, 2005,” the letter reads.
Bhalla said the decision by the state government could leave an impact on the country’s international commitments. “…the unilateral action on the part of the government of West Bengal to stop the cross land border movement of essential goods would have larger implications for the Indian Government with regard to its legally binding international commitments,” read the letter.
Asked about Bengal’s stance on the issue, home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay said the state would address the issue with “careful consideration of all related aspects”.
Sources at Nabanna said the trade through the international borders could not be resumed because of resistance from local people in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic. “We had taken initiatives to resume the trade between India and Bangladesh through Petrapole a few days ago.
But the trade had to be stopped within a couple of days because of the resistance of local residents,” said an official.
A section of the officials said that the state government was trying to make local people understand that trade with the neighbouring countries was important for the nation.
“People are apprehending spread of Covid-19 if the trade resumes. We have to assure them that enough precautionary measures are being taken. We cannot start the trade by keeping them at gun point,” said an official.
In case of several international check-posts on the borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, the cargo movement has stopped since the lockdown was imposed and the state government is trying to assess the situation before taking a final call on the issue, sources said.
“Local resistance is the primary reason behind the situation at north Bengal check-posts. We would try to engage villagers in a meeting with the administration so that they can be assured that proper measures would be taken to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus,” said a source.
Ajay Bhalla wrote another letter to Rajiva Sinha on Wednesday asking him to take measures on the points raised by the inter-ministerial central team that had visited the state recently.
Bhalla wrote that the IMCT had found that Bengal was characterised by a very low rate of testing and a very high rate of mortality (13.2 per cent). Moreover, lockdown violations and instances of overcrowding in markets also remained a problem.