70 Indian border markets to be open to Bangladeshis

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Agartala, Oct 10 (IANS) India intends to set up 70 markets, colloquially called ‘haats’, on its border where Bangladeshis and Indians will be able to buy and sell, among other things, fish, spices, dairy and poultry products as well as handicrafts.

“India in consultation with the Bangladesh government and respective state governments has identified 70 locations in five border states to set up the ‘Border Haats’ in a phased manner,” said a union home ministry report made available to IANS.
State governments of four northeastern states have also proposed to set up 15 ‘Border Haats’ along the India-Myanmar border to develop trans-border local trades and business.
“The ‘Border Haats’ would be allowed to sell local agricultural and horticultural products, spices, minor forest products (excluding timber), fresh and dry fish, dairy and poultry products, cottage industry items, wooden furniture, handloom and handicraft items,” an official said.
No local tax will be imposed on the trading. Both Indian and Bangladeshi currencies will be accepted, he added.
The home ministry report said: “Of the 70 ‘Border Haats’, 35 have been proposed along the border with West Bengal, followed by 22 in Meghalaya border, five in Tripura and four in Assam.”
Four locations to set up ‘Border Haats’ in Mizoram’s border with Bangladesh have also been identified.
“BSF (Border Security Force) authorities have also been involved in identifying the locations to set up the ‘Border Haats’ along the Bangladesh border,” the report added.
A senior official of the Development of North Eastern Region ministry said that state governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram – which share 1,643-km unfenced border with Myanmar – have also suggested setting up 15 ‘Border Haats’ along the India-Myanmar border.
“The Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh governments have suggested four ‘Border Haats’ each along their international borders with Myanmar while the Manipur government wanted four such local markets,” the official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Two ‘Border Haats’ had already been set up in 2012 at Meghalaya’s Kalaichar (India)-Baliamari (Bangladesh) and Dalora (Bangladesh)-Balat (India).
Each ‘Border Haat’ costs Rs.2.20 crore to Rs 2.45 crore to set up.
West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram share 4,096-km border with Bangladesh and most parts of the boundaries are unfenced.
Tripura Industry and Commerce Department Director and Special Secretary Pravin L. Agrawal said that during the visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in New Delhi Jan 10-13, 2010, India and Bangladesh decided to set up the ‘Border Haats’ to boost local trade and for people-to-people contact.
“Joint secretaries of Indian and Bangladesh governments’ commerce ministries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) Oct 23, 2010, and finalised the modalities to set up the ‘Border Haats’,” Agrawal told IANS.
He said that trading in these bazars would be held once or twice a week, and in June 2012 in a revised agreement per day per head spending cap of $50 has been increased to $100.
Agrawal said that one ‘Border Haat’ at Kasba in western Tripura and another at Srinagar in southern Tripura would be operational soon.
The ‘Border Haats’ are to be set up within five kilometres on each side of the international border.
“Trade between Bangladesh and Tripura alone has increased from Rs.4.12 crore in 1995-1996 to Rs.343 crore in the 2012-13 financial year,” the official said, adding that due to the domestic political turmoil in Bangladesh trading was hugely affected in last fiscal and the trade was recorded at Rs.230 crore in 2013-14.
Agrawal said: “We expect that the trade between Bangladesh and Tripura alone would cross Rs.500 crore annually within the next three years. There is a huge scope of increasing trade between Bangladesh and northeastern states of India.”
Four northeastern states – Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam – share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh, parts of which are unfenced and run through dense forests, making it porous and vulnerable.
“If the existing border infrastructure is upgraded, the volume of trade and business between Bangladesh and northeastern states of India would be increased five to six times of the current level,” the Tripura industry and commerce department official said.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c @ians.in)

Last modified: October 10, 2014