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Sisters facilitate King’s cargo

Medicines sent by Aapa through Didi to Bhutan
Sheikh Hasina

Devadeep Purohit   |   Calcutta   |   Published 26.04.20, 11:39 PM

Two women from two sides of the border — both called sister by their followers — did their bit to ensure that a medical consignment for the elderly could reach the royal family in Bhutan from Dhaka via Bengal earlier last week.

The consignment was from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, known as Aapa in her country, for the Wangchuck family that has been ruling the Himalayan country since 1907. It reached the intended recipient, thanks to a helping hand lent by Mamata Banerjee, the Didi of Bengal.

The consignment of medicines included high-potency multivitamin tablets and vitamin-C tablets, which help in boosting immunity, said sources.

“The Prime Minister of Bangladesh had sent the consignment as a goodwill gesture for the Fifth King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck for distribution among elderly citizens in this time of pandemic,” said a source in Bangladesh.

On April 20, a truck carrying the medicines reached the zero point through Burimari, which is on the other side of Changrabandha in Cooch Behar, but to enter the Indian side, it needed a clearance from Nabanna as the land port had been sealed since the lockdown.

As information reached the state headquarters that a consignment for His Majesty the Fifth King –- with whom the Bengal chief minister shares a personal rapport -– was waiting at the border, the state administration swung into action. A vehicle from Cooch Behar crossed the border and the consignment was transferred into it.


“Initially, there were plans to send a vehicle to the Changrabandha border…. But then the chief minister’s office asked the Cooch Behar administration to arrange a vehicle to carry the consignment from the India-Bangladesh border to the India-Bhutan border at Jaigain in Alipurduar. So, at least six to eight hours could be saved,” said a source.

From Changrabandha, the truck headed for Phuentsholing, the bordering town of Bhutan, around 100km away, along Asian Highway 48 and the consignment landed in the Himalayan country on the same day.

Although the Centre had not put any restrictions on movement of essential items through the land ports, the Bengal government sealed the borders in the state. A source said the intervention from the CM’s office would not have been necessary had the state government not sealed the borders.

The gesture of the two women, sources in Bhutan said, was much appreciated in Thimphu, which has always shared a special bonding with both Dhaka and Delhi.

The coronavirus spread is well within control in Bhutan, where only seven persons have been affected as of now and three of them have already recovered. The concerns of the Himalayan country, however, are different as it relies heavily on tourism, which has been severely affected since the outbreak.

During a conversation with his Bhutanese counterpart Lotay Tshering and the Fifth King earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged all support to Bhutan in tackling the impact of the pandemic.

“Two consignments of medical supplies have already been sent to Bhutan. A third shipment containing essential medicines is expected to be handed over to Bhutan next week,” said a source.

From the Indian side, an empty truck was sent to the zero point and then under the monitoring of the security forces of both countries, the medicine cartons were shifted to this truck.

“We were informed that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh had sent these medicines as gift for the Royal King of Bhutan. Accordingly, arrangements were made so that the medicines could be sent to Bhutan,” said Kapil Bain, the superintendent of Customs posted at Changrabandha.

Additional reporting by Main Uddin Chisti

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