The Indian government has directed its customs authorities at the Petrapole border to check and issue clearance certificates for export and import goods passing through the land port.
The move, which aims to revive a decade-old directive, has left traders on both sides of the border fearing the collapse of trade through the Benapole-Petrapole border.
“Until now, the goods unloaded from trucks weren’t checked unless there were any specific allegations against it,” Kartik Chakraborty, the general secretary of Petrapole Port Clearing and Forwarding Staff Welfare Association, told bdnews24.com.
"But the Petrapole Customs Authority suddenly wrote to several organisations saying that a clearance certificate has to be issued upon examining the goods moving through the land port."
Santosh Kumar, a clearing and forwarding agent at Petrapole, said, "It will be difficult to do business particularly on shipments of perishable products under these rules.”
Traders have already suspended shipments of goods in protest against the order, he said.
In November 2005, the Indian Customs Department issued a directive to examine shipments of goods at the border. The fresh directive was issued as the previous on was not followed.
All imports from Bangladesh carried on trucks are required to be unloaded at the CDC (Central Warehousing Corporation) warehouse under the directive. The goods will then be checked before being loaded on Indian trucks.
The same process will be followed for goods being exported to Bangladesh, according to the traders.
“Indian authorities did not give us any letter. But we heard of the new measures from traders and truck drivers. If the rules are introduced, it will turn the process into a time-consuming one," said Azizur Rahman, a customs official at Benapole on the Bangladeshi side.
However, Motiar Rahman, chairman of the sub-committee on exports and imports along the India-Bangladesh land port, admitted that he received a letter signed by the Assistant Commissioner of Petropol Customs.
“The trade through the land port will collapse if the matter is not settled now," he said.
Aminul Haque, vice-president of Benapole Port Importers-Exporters Association said, "It usually takes about 5-15 days for shipments of goods to arrive from India. If the directive is implemented this time, it will only add to our troubles.”
Benapole land port accounts for 65 per cent of the total goods annually imported and exported from India.
In the fiscal year 2017-18, about 19,88,357 metric tonnes of goods were imported from India through the land port while 3,52,963 metric tonnes of went the other way. The government receives over Tk 40 billion in revenue from the trade through the land port.
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