The Meghalaya government is in the process of working out modalities to restart border trade with Bangladesh through its land customs stations (LCS), with the authorities having decided to resume the international trade, keeping with all safety norms.
Over 100 Bangladesh-bound trucks laden with lime stones and boulders are stuck as the trade between the two countries has remained suspended for early three months in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Times of India reported.
Trade between the two neighbours was suspended after India imposed the nationwide lockdown from March 25.
On June 3, the Meghalaya government had issued an order permitting resumption of border trade with Bangladesh through land customs stations, subject to strict compliance of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) being issued by the State government.
However, trade through border haats (traditional markets), where people from both countries assemble, continues to remain prohibited.
Meghalaya Exporters Chamber of Commerce (MECC), general secretary, Dolly Khonglah informed that the district administration of West Jaintia Hills had recently held consultation meeting with various members of different exporter and importer associations, truck owners and drivers associations on the resumption of border trade with Bangladesh through land customs station at Tamabil- Dawki.
"They (district administration) have briefed us about the SOPs that need to be strictly followed by the exporters and drivers transporting the shipment to Bangladesh. They are now working out the modalities and once the district administration gives us the green signal we will resume the border trade," she said.
Khonglah said that the exporters have agreed to depute only one driver per vehicle to enter Bangladesh on condition that the driver should not alight from his vehicle for the unloading of goods in the neighbouring country.
"Drivers will be screened at the entry and exit points on the border and they will have to undergo testing once in every ten days as per SOP and their movements are restricted to only between their places of stay and places of work and vice versa," she informed.
Welcoming the Meghalaya government's decision to resume the border trade, Khonglah praised Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma for his determination to bring back the State's economy into form following the Covid-19 lockdown.
"We need to open up our trade activities so that the government can generate revenue in terms of foreign exchange and royalty and especially to sustain the livelihood of the people who are involved directly and indirectly with border trade," she said.
"I hope we can start our trade activities at the earliest before hunger, not the Covid-19 pandemic, kills us. Economy cannot remain shut like this for too long. We have to learn to live with it but we need to take utmost care to protect ourselves from being infected with the disease and duly follow the health guidelines," the exporter underscored.
India and Bangladesh have an annual trade of $10 billion, but out of this total, Meghalaya contributes only 0.7 per cent despite sharing a 443 km long border with Bangladesh.