Tourists have raised allegations of harassment and mismanagement by immigration officials at Petrapole border, the Indian side of the Benapole checkpoint with Bangladesh.
They have demanded that the Bangladesh government address the issue.
“We have complained to our Indian counterpart over and over again regarding the harassment of tourists, but to no avail,” Benapole Check Post Immigration Officer-in-Charge Torikul Islam said.
On April 9, India’s immigration officials harassed a Bangladeshi passport holder Minhaz Arafat for not switching off his mobile phone during processing of immigration papers to enter India.
Minhaz said the officials verbally abused him and rejected his entry to India by putting refused seal on his passport.
On April 11, another Bangladeshi Nur Ali was harassed since he stayed at his relative’s place in India for one month and was trying to visit India just 10 days after coming to Bangladesh.
Nur Ali told the immigration officials he had to stay at the relative’s place for treatment purpose, and that he again wanted to visit the country following doctor’s advice.
He was asked to see the doctor after 10 days.
However, the immigration officials were not satisfied with the reply and so Nur Ali was denied entry and abused verbally.
On April 21, a Bangladeshi pregnant woman was harassed by immigration officials at the Petrapole border.
One Arpita Paul, married to an Indian named Ananda Dasgupta, was returning to her in-laws’ place after visiting her parents in Bangladesh.
She said an immigration official questioned her over one or two torn pages of her passport. Arpita was made to wait for long hours under the sun and later she fell sick.
Following the harassment, the couple filed a complaint against the immigration officials about which Bangladeshi and Indian media have already reported.
Tourists also have to pay bribes -- another sort of harassment by customs officials-- on their way back to Bangladesh.
The Petrapole customs in collaboration with a syndicate of coolies take huge amount of money as bribes every day from the tourists. If anybody refuses to pay the bribe, they face harassment in numerous ways.
Tourists in great numbers use the Benapole-Petrapole border compared to other borders for treatment, business, and travel purposes due to an easy communication system.
Moreover, many Bangladeshis have relatives in India, particularly in West Bengal, and similarly many Indians have relatives in Bangladesh.
On an average, around 6,000 to 8,000 tourists use this border every day.
An applicant has to pay Tk700 to the Indian High Commission as visa processing fee while Tk542 as travel tax to the Bangladesh government. They also need to pay Tk2,000 more to complete the procedure.
But the Indian customs and immigration authorities do not offer any facilities like restroom and washroom to the tourists.
The tourists have to stand in queue for hours under the open sky in rain and sunshine. Many fall sick due to the long wait.
On the contrary, the government of Bangladesh has set up numerous establishments for the tourists in the Benapole border, including international customs-immigration building, passenger terminal and bus terminal. The manpower in the customs and police force has also been boosted.