Amid the ten-day government imposed holiday in Bangladesh and three-week lockdown in India the Benapole-Petrapole international border was opened since Monday to facilitate the exit and entry of people on emergency grounds.
Around 2400 people have reached over to Bangladesh and more than 400 entered India till Thursday (March 26), Times of India reported.
"The border is kept open for emergency purposes and even a dead body was ferried to Dhaka through this border on Wednesday," an official said.
Asraf Hossain was a cancer patient who was undergoing treatment in a hospital in south Kolkata and from there the relatives had to get permission from the local police station and foreigners regional registration office to take back the body, as moving out is prohibited under the present lockdown situation. "However, the Indian authorities were co-operative and we managed to bring the body to Petrapole and from there we transferred the body to a vehicle which was brought from Dhaka to go for the cortege," said a relative.
An official at Petrapole border said, "Almost every week they have to give permission for taking bodies to Bangladesh, as a large number of patients come to India for treatment and many of them die in hospitals in Kolkata but the case on Wednesday was unusual and we had to allow the body to go to Dhaka under lockdown situation."'
He added that often the local police probe the cause of death before issuing a no-objection certificate for which sometimes it takes time, but on Wednesday it was a smooth transition for Hossain.
"Moreover, we are more concerned with Covid 19 and so if any Bangladesh citizen dies due to the virus then the body would not be allowed to be transported out and in that case, the body needs to be cremated here."
The maximum rush to cross over to Bangladesh was on Monday as the lockdown started in Bengal from 5 pm and by the afternoon over 1770 people had reached the neighbouring country, while 400 Indians came from Bangladesh.
"On Tuesday, 391 people including some Indian diplomats reached Bangladesh, while on Wednesday 288 Bangladeshis went home and 18 Indians arrived. One person left India on Thursday," a senior official said.
However, there are reports that some Indian students who were studying in Bangladesh had been stopped before reaching the border and for which they have contacted the Indian high commission in Dhaka.
North 24-Parganas district administration officials said that they have spotted over 250 trucks in Bongaon which were supposed to go to Bangladesh, but due to a standstill they are stuck. Earlier last week chief minister Mamata Banerjee had instructed to return 1800 plus Bangladesh bound trucks to their respective places of origin, as otherwise, goods would be damaged. Right now there are over 40 trucks in the Petrapole parking lot, an official said.
A Bangladesh deputy high commission official said that they are trying to accommodate all requests made by the Bangladesh citizens in Kolkata. "Right now there is no provision for granting visas. But the Bangladesh citizens are enquiring if they can return home as hospitals and hotels are also asking them to leave and we are trying to them. Many people who were staying in the hotels have left and some have shifted to their friends' home," the official said.