AGARTALA/SILCHAR: Amid the alarming spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in both India and Bangladesh, the trade between the two neighbouring countries continues to be unaffected as exports-imports are being carried out by strictly enforcing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) laid down by the authorities of both the nations. Both India and Bangladesh have restricted the movement of people between the two countries, but allowed the trade to continue, adhering to the SOPs.
According to the officials, around 40 trading points comprising Land Customs Stations (LCS) and three Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) along the 4,096 km India-Bangladesh borders in West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura are still operational, through which cross-border trades are taking place.
The Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh) border along West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district and the Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) border along Tripura are the two main trading routes between India and Bangladesh.
Agartala-Akhaura ICP chief Debashish Nandi said that the officials are closely monitoring the maintenance of the Covid SOPs to ensure that the workers and drivers and their assistants from both India and Bangladesh always maintain the social distancing protocols.
''No laxity of the SOPs is being permitted in maintaining border trades, which are also very essential given the Covid induced economic situation,'' said Nandi.
The four 'Border Haats' (markets) in Tripura and Meghalaya along the India-Bangladesh frontier are also closed since March last year as a precautionary measure against Novel Coronavirus.
The NTAC (National Technical Advisory Committee) of Bangladesh on COVID-19, headed by professor Mohammad Shahidullah, has stressed the need to introduce strict cross-border travel restrictions amid the rapid surge in COVID cases and deaths.
The Assistant High Commissioner of Agartala-based Bangladesh Assistant High Commission, Mohammad Jobayed Hosen, said that no foreigners would be allowed to visit Bangladesh as the land routes are closed by the government for two weeks starting Monday.
''The Bangladeshi nationals whose visa period would expire within the next 15 days have been advised to return to the country. The Bangladesh diplomatic missions in India would facilitate their return,'' said Hosen.
He added that those Bangladeshi citizens, including students, who have a long-term visa can stay in India, following all the COVID-safety guidelines.
The envoy said that the Bangladesh government had earlier prohibited travel of foreigners by air, waterways or rail to Bangladesh.
Since early last year, the Manipur and Mizoram governments have prohibited cross-border movement of people along India's borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh in the two north-eastern States as precautionary measures.
The Indian government has recently approved the 6th multi-facilitated ICP at Sabroom along the India-Bangladesh borders to boost trade, economy and easier movement of people of the two neighbouring countries.
A senior official of the Tripura Industry & Commerce Department said that the Central government has given approval for Rs 90.60 crore to acquire land for setting up the new ICP in Sabroom in southern Tripura, around 135 km south of Agartala.
According to the official, the Indian government has already set up or is in the process of setting up five multi-facilitated and multi-utility ICPs in Petrapole-Benapole, Dawki (Meghalaya), Sutarkandi (Assam), Sonamura and Agartala (both Tripura) and the sixth one would be set up in Sabroom in southern Tripura. The works for the ICPs in Dawki and Sutarkandi are almost complete and they will be operational soon. The Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI), under the Union Home Ministry (MHA), has also set up one ICP each along the Pakistan and Myanmar borders and two along the Nepal borders. (IANS)