Travel restrictions to India due to the coronavirus pandemic have led to a decline in government tourism revenues at the Benapole land port in Jashore.
The number of India-bound passengers using the Benapole port dropped by a little over 5.35 lakh in 2021 compared to 2020 – from 6.99 lakhs to 1.64 lakhs.
Consequently, government revenue collection at Benapole was Tk26.76 crore less than in pre-pandemic times, when the figure usually hovered near the Tk100 crore mark, said port officials.
Prior to the pandemic, imports of products from India stood at around 23-24 tons per year while the total number of travellers between the two countries crossing at Benapole Port on medical, business, education and tourist visas, ranged between 18 to 20 lakhs.
In trade and commerce revenue, the largest land port of the country used to generate about Tk6,000crore yearly.
In the wake of the pandemic, India imposed cross-border travel restrictions on 13 March 2020 and on 26 March the country suspended trade activities through land ports. Four months later, with an improving pandemic situation, the trade restrictions were gradually eased. However, cross-border travel through land ports is still restricted.
Traveller Abu Taleb says Indian authorities are allowing air travel rather than travel over land.
Mesbaul Hasan, monitoring officer for the Benapole Immigration health department, said people returning from India are being screened for Covid with the rapid antigen test to curb infections.
"Returnees who test positive upon return are treated at the Covid unit of JashoreSadar Hospital," he said.
Benapole Immigration Officer-in-Charge, Md Raju, said that before the pandemic, eight to ten thousand people travelled across this route and the number ranges from only 100 to 200 these days, with the restrictions in place.
"Before departure and after arrival passengers are required to provide Covid-negative RT–PCR test results recorded within 72 hours of crossing at the border," he added.
"Trade and commerce activities are gradually returning to normal. However, passenger movement has dropped significantly due to the travel restrictions," said Abdul Jalil, deputy director (traffic) at Benapole port.