More border haats in the offing on Bangladesh-India border

Agartala, July 27 (IANS)

Dhaka and New Delhi are keen to set up eight more markets along the India-Bangladesh border in the northeastern states, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes said here.

Two ‘border haats’ (bazars) were set up in Meghalaya last year on a pilot basis and these are now operational.

“The Bangladesh government has already agreed to India’s proposal to set up four border haats along the border with Tripura. Study is on to set up four more border haats in Mizoram,” Quayes told IANS Thursday.

He said: “Through the border haats, besides business in local products, people to people contacts of both sides of the border would be further strengthened.”

The border haats or bazars are to be set up within five km on either side of the international border.

Tripura’s Commerce Minister Jitendra Chaudhury said the proposed four border haats would be set up at Raghna and Kamalpur in northern Tripura, Kasba in western Tripura and Srinagar in southern Tripura. Tripura shares an 856-km long international border with Bangladesh.

“The Tripura government had earlier demanded seven border haats along the Tripura border. In the first phase, four such trading markets were agreed upon by the two countries,” Chaudhury said.

“If the existing border infrastructure is upgraded, the volume of trade and business between Bangladesh and northeastern states of India would be increased five to six times of the current level,” the minister added.

“The border haats would be allowed to sell local agricultural and horticultural products, spices, minor forest products (excluding timber), fresh and dry fish, dairy and poultry products, cottage industry items, wooden furniture, handloom and handicraft items,” said Chaudhury.

He said that trading in these markets would be held once or twice a week, and a spending cap of $50 will be imposed per head.

No local tax would be imposed on the trading and both Indian as well as Bangladeshi currencies will be accepted, the official said.

“Trade between Bangladesh and Tripura alone has increased from Rs.4 crore in 1996 to Rs.258 crore in the last financial year. During the current fiscal (2011-12) up to December (last year) the trade further increased to Rs.232 crore…,” he added.

Four northeastern states – Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam – share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh, some of it unfenced and running through dense forests, making it porous and vulnerable.