The four Border Haats, two each in Tripura and Meghalaya, have remained closed since March 2020 after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic …writes Sujit Chakraborty
After three years of closure, one of the two ‘Border Haats’ (markets) in Tripura along India-Bangladesh border resumed trading on Tuesday with the participation of vendors and buyers of the two countries.
District officials of south Tripura and Bangladesh’s Feni districts were present on the opening day of the business of the Purba Madhugram (Bangladesh)-Srinagar (South Tripura) ‘Border Haat’.
Additional District Magistrate and Collector Dhanbabu Reang and Bangladesh’s Feni District’s Additional District Magistrate Abhishek Das said that the ‘Border Haat’ would function on each Tuesday and 27 vendors including women from each side would participate in the border market.
“As per the decision of the officials of the two district authorities, 1200 people each from India and Bangladesh would be allowed to enter into the ‘Border Haat’ after verifying their government identity cards,” Reang told the media.
Bangladeshi vendor Mohammad Tushar said that the ‘Border Haat’ boosts them a lot to maintain their livelihood and prevent smuggling of local produce on either side.
A top official of the Tripura Industries and Commerce Department said that after a recent meeting between the district officials of Feni and South Tripura, it was decided to resume the business of the Purba Madhugram (Bangladesh)-Srinagar (South Tripura) ‘Border Haats’ from Tuesday.”Efforts were on to restart another Border Haat — Kasba (Bangladesh)-Kamlasagar (Tripura) in Sepahijala district,” the official told IANS.
The four Border Haats, two each in Tripura and Meghalaya, have remained closed since March 2020 after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdowns, causing immense loss to the people living in the bordering villages.
Both the Tripura and Meghalaya governments have been pressing the Centre to take up the matter with the Bangladesh government to resume the Border Haats.
The two Border Haats in Meghalaya — at Balat (East Khasi Hills district) and Kalaichar (South West Garo Hills district) – were, however, reopened last year and both are functional once a week now.
The fifth Border Haat between India and Bangladesh was inaugurated on May 6 along Bholaganj under the Companiganj upazila of Sylhet district and East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya.
The opening of the new Border Haat in Meghalaya border was welcomed by people on both sides of borders with great enthusiasm.
The new Border Haat would function on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon.
Officials of the Tripura Industries and Commerce Department said that the officials in Sepahijala and South Tripura district administrations had on a number of occasions approached their Bangladesh counterparts to reopen the Border Haats as the Covid-19 induced situation has almost been tamed now.
Jaipur-based think-tank CUTS International, which has done several studies on border trade, had also recommended to the Indian government to resume these border markets the necessary precautions against Covid-19, as these markets boost the economy, cement ties between the people of the two countries and also check illegal trade.
These border markets, spread in around 5,625 sq. metre area of the two countries’ territories or “no-man’s land”, operate once a week on a fixed day.
In the weekly market, on an average, at least 25 vendors, including women from both sides of the border, sell their products.
According to the officials, 10 more “Border Haats” were approved along the India-Bangladesh border at Tripura and Meghalaya. Out of them, six are in Meghalaya, and four in Tripura.
Both Indian and Bangladeshi governments are keen to reopen more “Border Haats” in the four northeastern states — Tripura, Meghalaya, Assam and Mizoram, which share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh.
The first Border Haat was inaugurated in 2011 in the West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya at Kalaichar and Kurigram in Bangladesh.
Border Haat may be small in terms of the volume of trade but they contribute immensely in bonding of people on both sides of border, knowledge sharing and deepening people-to-people connectivity which is an essential building block in cementing ties between the two neighbouring countries, said CUTS International Executive Director Bipul Chatterjee.