Regular India transit around the cornerMustafizur Rahman
The government has initiated a move to facilitate ‘inter-state transport and communication system’ by allowing use of river ports, seaports, land ports, roads and railway under the Bangladesh-India Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade.
The shipping ministry has already formed an inter-ministry working group to make recommendations, among others, on tariff, fees and other charges for transit or transshipment of goods through Bangladesh after getting approval from the prime minister.
The ministry’s initiative came after the prime minister’s adviser on economic affairs Mashiur Rahman in a demi-official letter to the shipping minister, Shajahan Khan, reportedly suggested formation of the group on the ground that India had already formed a similar body to look after the matter.
The 12-member body led by shipping ministry joint secretary Md Alauddin has also been asked to make suggestions for ‘smooth use of waterways, river ports, seaports and land ports in transit of goods.’ under the protocol, which was renewed in March for another year with effect from April 1, 2012.
India last year used Bangladesh’s Ashuganj river port and Akhaura land port to transport its goods between its two regions through Bangladesh without fees on a ‘trial basis’ under the protocol.
The working group includes representatives as members from the ministries of commerce, foreign affairs and railways, roads division, national board of revenue, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, shipping directorate, Bangladesh Land Ports Authority, Chittagong Port Authority and Mongla Port Authority, according to an official order issued by the shipping ministry on Sunday.
In the five-point terms of reference, the order, signed by deputy secretary Md Shahidul Islam, said the group would make necessary suggestions for development and use of both roads and railways.
It would also make recommendations on matters
of inter-state transport and communication.
After renewal of the protocol, shipping secretary Abdul Mannan Howlader said on April 2 that regular transit of Indian goods through Bangladesh would begin after clearance from the ministries of communications and railways since roads and railways were yet to be prepared for the purpose.
He, however, claimed that the country’s river routes and ports were ready to allow Indian ships for transit of goods under the Bangladesh-India Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, originally signed in 1972 between the two neighbours.
India started using Bangladesh for trial transit of its goods from West Bengal to Tripura on September 29 although the land port at Akhaura or the river port at Ashuganj were not prepared for facilitating movement of heavy vehicles carrying the Indian goods.
On October 19, 2011, the regular transit began hurriedly and without a formal announcement even before the trial transit through Ashuganj river port and Akhaura land port to Agartala in the Indian province of Tripura was completed.
In the face of criticism from different quarters, including the media, the government on October 26 decided not to allow any more Indian cargoes under ‘regular transit’ until modalities were finalised on completion of the trial transit.
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