Travellers heave a sigh of relief with the opening of e-gates, or electronic gates, at Benapole Land Port checkpoints aiming to save time and ease sufferings for immigration clearance.
Four e-gates at the port were inaugurated by Home Minister Asaduzzman Khan Kamal on Saturday.
Now it takes only 18 seconds to check an e-passport and issue clearance at the gates, said sources.
Talking to The Business Standard, many passengers said that after launching of the e-service in the Benapole port, they no longer have to stand in long queues to verify passport information. Now they can complete the immigration process quickly.
The e-gates have been installed at the port to facilitate passenger service in a fast manner and ensure security. Two of the gates are for inbound passengers from India and two others for outgoing travellers from Bangladesh.
However, alongside the newly installed e-gates, manual ones are also used for passport verification as most of the passport holders in the country have not yet come under the e-passport coverage.
According to Benapole immigration sources, in normal times every day, around 5,000-7,000 people travel between Bangladesh and India through Benapole land port. The number of travellers doubles during Eid and Puja festivals. Passengers have to stand in long queues to check documents at the immigration. Many are even subjected to fraud and harassment by broker gangs who extorts money from the passengers with the promise of fast service of immigration.
One Moniruzzaman, a traveller who availed the service of e-gates, told TBS, "Since 2001, I have been travelling between India and Bangladesh through the Benapole Port. This is the first time it took less than a minute to complete the passport data verification process through the e-gate".
The e-gates were opened to the e-passport holders after the inauguration on Saturday afternoon.
While inaugurating the entrances, minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said that efforts were underway to introduce e-visa verification service to ease sufferings of travellers.
"Bangladesh has moved from handwritten passport to MRP (machine-readable passport) to e-passport. In this continuation, we are now marching towards the Smart Bangladesh," he added.
"The prime minister, in her election manifesto, pledged to build a digital Bangladesh. As a part of the digitisation process, e-passport is now in everyone's hand. At one stage, we left handwritten passports and moved to using the MRP. Thereafter, we stepped into the e-passport under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina," the minister further said.
Benapole Immigration Police Officer-in-Charge (OC) Ahsan Habib said that the immigration personnel have already been trained to operate the e-gates.
"After the opening of this service, the immigration process for each passenger is done within 18 seconds. The gates open automatically when the e-passport is touched to the designated area of the gate and the traveller's fingerprint is given. This service will make traffic safer and reduce sufferings of people," he added.
According to sources at the Department of Immigration and Passports (DIP), the e-passport programme was launched in the country on 18 January, 2020. Until now, 170,000 people have so far come under the e-passport coverage from the Jashore office of the DIP.
"Meanwhile, the e-passport programme has been started in the passport offices in all districts. It will take time for all passport holders to switch to e-passport. Now e-passport is being issued for everyone," said Mehdi Hasan Kutub, deputy director at the Jashore office of the department.