Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International has urged the governments of Bangladesh and India to re-open the border haats between the two countries.
“Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, India-Bangladesh border haats are closed. While the Balat border haat in East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya had been re-opened recently, it is time to also re-open the remaining border haats at Kalaichar in South West Garo hills in Maghalaya and those in Kamalasagar and Srinagarin Tripura,” said Bipul Chatterjee, Executive Director, CUTS International.
“That will help local stakeholders on both sides of the border to regain their livelihood and can act as a significant contributor to the post-Covid recovery of the local economy in these border areas,” he added.
According to a press statement, issued by CUTS on Tuesday, Chatterjee also argued that as per local haat management committee records, just before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the combined annual trade value of Balat and Kalaichar border haats was nearly Indian Rupees 546 million and that in Kamalasagar and Srinagar border haats was Indian Rupees 148 million.
“That’s huge for these local economies and they have significant multiplier effects as that money is usually circulated among the local communities,” Chatterjee continued.
The press statement also said that over the last decade, a total of ten border haats were established along the India-Bangladesh border at Tripura and Meghalaya. Out of the 10 border haats, six border haats are in Meghalaya, and four are in Tripura.
Before the Covid-induced lockdown, two border haats in Meghalya, viz. Balat, and Kalaichar, were in operation and four others, viz. Ryngku, Nolikata, Bholaganj and Shibbari were getting ready for inauguration.
At present, while the Ryngku border haatis operational, operations at the Kalaichar border haat has been suspended for administrative reasons.
In Tripura, none of the two border haats has resumed their operations. While the people of Tripura were excited about the opening of two new border haats at Kamalpur and Palbasti, they are yet to see much progress.
A study by CUTS International has documented how border haats have and/or can play an important role in reducing cross-border informal trade, generating local livelihood, reducing job-related out-migration, and empowering women in border areas.
“It is an imperative for the Governments of India and Bangladesh to work together and facilitate the operationalisation of existing and new border haats,” added the statement.