Patients and traders find themselves in dire straits due to a ban on entry into India to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
This situation has been going on for more than the last four months. Now traders fear that imports and exports through the Jashore port may be stopped at any time.
On the afternoon of March 13, the Indian government banned Bangladeshi passport holders from entering India through the Benapole checkpost and suspended their visas.
The Dhaka-Kolkata bus service and Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan train service were suspended due to the coronavirus.
Currently Benapole port is completely empty and the Benapole-Petrapole checkpost area wears a deserted look.
Employees at various transport counters, immigration, customs, ports and bank booths at the checkposts and Ansar members have been spending an idle time. The usual crowd of porters is also missing.
While Bangladeshi passengers have not been able to go to India, passengers from other countries, including India, have been entering Bangladesh from India without any hindrance.
Coronavirus has also spread in different states of India. Panic has gripped the Benapole-Petrapole checkpost area as coronavirus patients have been identified in the town of Bangaon on the other side of the border.
Passengers carrying Indian passports are traveling to Bangladesh easily as there is no ban imposed by the Bangladesh government.
However, a small number of Bangladeshi patients, who go to the checkpost for moving on to India for treatment, are being sent back.
As there are no restrictions on import and export of goods, import-export trade between the two countries is going on at a normal pace.
However, traders fear that import and export may be stopped through this port since many products have to be ordered after one enters India. But it has become impossible due to the restrictions on travel.
According to the Benapole customs office, in fiscal 2019-20, nearly 17.79 lakh tonnes of various types of goods were imported through the Benapole port.
In fiscal 2018-19, around 18.37 lakh tonnes of goods were imported from India. The amount was more than 19.88 lakh tonnes in the previous fiscal year.
Rezwan Ahmed Murad, a motor parts importer in Jessore, said he mainly imports engines and spare parts for big vehicles.
"If you don't see the engines when you buy them, most of the out-of-order items are given by the traders on the other side," he added. "That is why I cannot import goods without going to India."
"I am selling the goods available in the godown. If the journey does not become normal very soon, we will fall into a crisis of products."
Benapole C&F Agents Association President Mofizur Rahman Sajan said India has significant trade relations with Bangladesh.
"If traders cannot go to India, import-export trade may also come to a stop. If trade with India is stopped, traders will suffer and prices of daily necessities will go up," he added.
He said the government should take immediate steps to introduce alternative measures to avoid any impact on trade.
Other traders are also afraid of incurring a massive loss in trade due to the ban on travel to India. The impact of the ban is not yet clear to business circles because most merchants have their previous products in stock.
Once these products are sold, there will be problems bringing in new products.
Under normal circumstances, 8,000 passport holders usually travel between the two countries every day. In addition, about 350 to 400 trucks carrying various types of goods enter Bangladesh from India.
Between 150 and 200 trucks carrying Bangladeshi products journey to India every day.
Every year, the government earns about Tk5,000 crore in revenue from imported goods and at least Tk75 crore from travellers.
Benapole Checkpost Immigration Officer-in-Charge Ahsan Habib confirmed that no Bangladeshi passport holder is allowed to enter India as there is a ban on entry into the country. However, there is no ban on the entry of Indians imposed by the Bangladesh government.
Former president of Jessore Chamber of Commerce and importer Mizanur Rahman Khan said, "If you don't buy most of the products yourself, you will be deceived. Once the bad product is gone, it can no longer be returned."
He said the government will have to make arrangements immediately to facilitate travel to India in compliance with health rules.