Unload cargo at no man’s land to bypass quarantine norms, Bengal govt proposes to exporters

To allow movement of stranded trucks laden with goods at Petrapole land port on the India- Bangladesh border, the West Bengal government on Tuesday said it can permit only essential commodities to be sent to the neighbouring country, but transfer of cargo has to be done at the no man”s land to avoid quarantine conditions.

Over 2,100 Bangladesh-bound trucks are stuck in and around Petrapole for over a month since the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24. According to rules, truckers have to go for a 14-day quarantine once they return from another country.

“The state government held a meeting with all stakeholders today. The administration offered a proposal to the trade that vehicles carrying essential items can be allowed to move forward. But the cargo has to be unloaded at the no man”s land, and not at the normal transfer zone at Benapole (in Bangladesh),” a senior Land Port Authority official told PTI.

“If a truck does not enter another country, there is no question of quarantine for the drivers and helpers. But they have to adhere to the sanitisation protocols advised by the WHO,” he said.

The ball is now in the court of exporters and truckers, the official said adding that they have to make all the arrangements in coordination with their counterparts in Bangladesh.

If the formula is accepted at Petrapole, it can be applied to other land ports of the state, he said.

Petrapole is in West Bengal”s North 24 Parganas district, about 80 kilometres from Kolkata.

Reaction of the exporters or truckers is not immediately available.

Trucks stranded in Petrapole are also causing social problem near the border as drivers and helpers are running out of cash, sources said adding that they are also exposed to the threat of coronavirus infection as social distancing norm is not maintained properly.