Benapol is COVID-19 free; exim activities may resume: Bangladeshi trade to Mamata

Bangladeshi Exim trade, seeking to resume Indian exports via Patrapole in West Bengal, has attempted to convey a message to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee that Benapole, the corresponding place across the border, is a green zone and does not pose any threat of coronavirus infection, an official said.

Trade between the two neighbours via Petrapole land port has been in deadlock over various issues including quarantine norms after India imposed the nationwide lockdown from March 25. Since then, only around 15 trucks from Petrapole unloaded goods on the no man’s land, instead of going till Benapole across the border, on April 30 and May 1.

However, that too was stopped as the people of Petrapole and the local panchayat run by the Trinamool Congress were opposed to it claiming that Benapole was affected by Covid-19 and resumption of export activities could lead to spread of the contagion in this side of the border.

The Benapole Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association on Wednesday has written a letter to the Calcutta Customs House Agents Association and requested it to convey to the chief minister, who also heads the Trinamool Congress, that Benapole is coronavirus-free and is a green zone, officials told PTI.

They said the Benapole trade body firmly believes that with the chief minister’s intervention, exim activities can return to normalcy. Calcutta Customs House Agents Association secretary Mannu Choudhary, confirmed receipt of the letter and said they will convey the message to Banerjee shortly. The letter also said that exporters of the neighbouring country seek to resume imports from India, and Bangladeshi trade ecosystem is ready to accept goods.

The Bangladeshi customs clearing agents, the key service providers for importers and exporters, attempted to assure the people of Petrapole that drivers and labourers moving to Benapole for unloading will not pose any threat of virus infection when they return. The lion’s share of trade with Bangladesh takes place via Petrapole and Benapole.

Currently, over 2,200 trucks are waiting in Petrapole for unloading their cargo in the neighbouring country. Both Indian and Bangladeshi trade said that transloading on the no mans land is not a feasible option as there is not enough space to carry out the activity. The Indian Exim trade body has also drawn the attention of the Wwst Bengal chief minister for her intervention on the mater.

Meanwhile, the Malda District administration has offered the option of creating a pool of drivers in Mahadipur land port, who would work in batches to deliver consignments across the border and stay in an isolation centre after returning.

This could be a workable solution for Petrapole too, unless the state government relaxes the quarantine norms for anyone crossing international borders, the Indian trade said. According to rules, truckers have to go on a 14-day quarantine once they return from another country.