Slow delivery of goods at Agartala worries exporters
Situation to turn worse if regular transit begins without infrastructureMustafizur Rahman . Akhaura
A truck has to wait for five to six days in a long queue at Akhaura land port to cross the border for unloading export goods at Agartala due to lack of adequate infrastructural facilities there, which is adversely affecting the export of local goods to the Indian state of Tripura.
‘I got the serial after six days. Earlier we had to wait hardly three days to deliver the goods. This is now a common situation,’ said Imdamul, a truck driver from Sylhet who was just crossing into Agartala with stones on Saturday at 11:30am.
He said the exporters have to pay an additional sum of Tk 1,000 to 3,000 per truck for each waiting day.
The driver, who frequently goes to Agartala carrying Bangladeshi goods, said the Indian authorities were developing new infrastructure to accommodate their transit goods, which is affecting the unloading of the export
items from Bangladesh.
Businessmen fear that the situation will turn worse if the regular ‘transit/transshipment’ of Indian goods begins without any improvement in the present infrastructure, including expansion of the narrow roads and dumping grounds at the land ports on both sides of the Akhaura-Agartala point through which Bangladesh hardly imports any goods.
‘Local businessmen fear that export of Bangladeshi goods will be affected seriously if Indians are allowed the corridor to carry their goods from one province to another with the existing facilities,’ ex-president of the Exporters’ and Importers’ Association at Akhaura land port, Shafiqul Islam, told New Age on Sunday.
He said that Bangladesh was earning a large amount of foreign exchange as around 60 Bangladeshi items, including fish, stone, cement and plastic goods, were being exported through the land port.
Everyday 60 to 65 Bangladeshi trucks, from around 300 that wait in the queue which can be around two kilometres long, can unload their goods while the rest have to wait for their turn as the Indian authorities stop receiving goods after 2:30pm on the grounds that they do not have sufficient dumping ground at Agartala land port, said exporters and truck drivers.
President of the Clearing and Forwarding Agents’ Association at Akhaura, Md Mobarak Hossain, said that export from Bangladesh would be hit hard if the regular transit begins without developing the infrastructure on both sides.
‘The situation has turned bad recently as the Indian authorities have started development activities,’ he added.
Exporters said Bangladesh earns around Tk 300 crore from exports to India through the single land port.
A joint team of officials from Dhaka and New Delhi, while visiting the land ports at Akhaura here and Agartala, on Saturday assured Bangladeshi exporters of addressing the issue.
‘We are here to see land port facilities, including customs, to ensure proper facilitation for trade between the two countries. We will make recommendations to our governments as to how the present situation can be improved through infrastructural development where it is necessary,’ director of the Department of Ports Indira Murti, who was leading a five-member Indian team, told New Age.
She, however, avoided answering any questions relating to transit of Indian goods through Bangladesh’s land and river ports, the process for which is reportedly at the final stage.
Commerce ministry’s deputy secretary Mokabbir Hossain, who was leading a five-member delegation from Dhaka, said the land customs station infrastructure sub-committee was working to ensure equal infrastructural facilities on both the sides for export and import from the two neighbouring countries.
Bangladeshi exporters and importers expressed their concern to the joint team at Akhaura point and told them that their business would be hampered seriously if regular transit begins through the land port without development of sufficient infrastructure, particularly in Agartala.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government has taken a move to allow India to use its river ports, seaports, land ports, roads and railways under the Bangladesh-India Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade.
In May, the shipping ministry appointed a 12-member inter-ministry working group to make recommendations on tariff, tax and other charges for transit or transshipment of goods through Bangladesh, and on other issues.
Earlier, India had appointed a similar body to look into the matter.
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 that time for facilitating the movement of heavy vehicles carrying the Indian goods.
On 19 October, 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 various quarters, including the media, the government on October 26 decided not to allow any more Indian cargoes under ‘regular transit’ until the modalities were finalised on completion of the trial transit.
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