Jairam Ramesh to make an on-the-spot study
New Delhi, June 17
Beefing up the infrastructure amenities in Petrapole, one of the important Land Customs Stations (LCS) situated on the Indo-Bangladesh border, would be the thrust of a day's visit by the Minister of State for Commerce, Mr Jairam Ramesh, on Monday to this main trade route by road between India and Bangladesh.
Trade relations between India and Bangladesh remained in India's favour with India exporting to Bangladesh goods worth $1,632.44 million in 2005-06 against $1,631.12 million in 2004-05 and importing from Bangladesh goods worth $118.76 million ($59.37 million).
India's major export items include cotton, fabrics, chemicals, machinery, rice, printed books, tyres and tubes, cycle parts, two wheelers, chassis, dry chilly and writing paper, while its imports from Bangladesh cover raw jute, jute bag, packing cloth, hilsa fish, jamdani sarees, betel nut, men's shirt and battery.
As the Petrapole post is riddled with infrastructure and logistical problems, Mr Ramesh would make an on-the-spot study of the conditions and discuss ways and means with officials comprising Home Affairs (Border Management), Finance, Railways, Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC), Border Security Force and the West Bengal Government to overcome the constraints.
Business Linehere that in recognition of the crucial role this border point plays in maintaining and increasing the momentum of trade volume, the Department of Commerce has set aside Rs 10.53 crore in phases to CWC and District Magistrate, North 24-Parganas under the Assistance to States for developing Export Infrastructure and Allied Activities (ASIDE) Scheme for upgrading the infrastructure facilities at LCS.
Officials dealing with this LCS contend that approximately 1,000-1,500 trucks carrying export consignments are waiting at Petrapole and along the route from Bangaon to Petrapole at any given time, causing acute traffic congestion on the entire stretch.
Yet another constraint is that the export trucks have to go through a raft of checks resulting into detention for even up to 2-3 days at the LCS, Petrapole. After the trucks are allowed to proceed for onward direction to Bangladesh, they have to wait on the other side pending clearances, as the working hours for Bangladesh customs are up to 1630 hours only with a holiday on Friday.
Exacerbated by the poor state of affairs at this border point, the Commerce Ministry has commissioned a feasibility study by RITES Ltd for development of infrastructure at LCS, Petrapole. According to the RITES study, the goods traffic is approximately 400 trucks per day both ways, while the present passenger traffic is about 1,159 people per day (both incoming and outgoing). The total traffic in 2029-30 has been projected as 2,938 trucks per day and the passenger traffic by then will be 3,924 people per day.
Basic improvements in infrastructure and management of check post operations are required to be put in place expeditiously to streamline the traffic and passenger movement. Currently, all clearance work is being done manually and hence in order to improve efficiency, computerisation and automation on an urgent basis is needed. Based on the feasibility study, the total cost of development has been estimated at Rs 86.75 crore.
The Department of Border Management, Ministry of Home Affairs, is in the process of taking up the development of infrastructure at LCS, Petrapole on the basis of the Draft Feasibility Report (DFR) submitted by RITES Ltd.
It is to be noted that DFR would be converted into a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for inclusion in the proposal for the Cabinet for taking up the development of infrastructure at eight LCS along the Indo-Bangladesh border, the officials said.
Even as the Indian side is seized of the urgency of the matter in view of the volume of trade being carried on in this significant spot at the border area, the proposed Integrated Land Customs Station on the Indian side would work at full efficiency only if there are matching moves on the Bangladesh side too, they said.