Truck movement was subsequently stopped following local political trouble along India's Petrapole
Around 2,300 cargo trucks of Indian origin are stranded along the India-Bangladesh border in Benapole port of Jessore over resistance from locals in India as they fear coronavirus (Covid-19) transmission.
Custom officials at the Benapole land port says 2,103 trucks — mostly loaded — have piled up on the Indian side awaiting clearance to unload stocks and 228 trucks are stranded in the Bangladesh side.
Benapole, located in Jessore district, is the largest land port in Bangladesh and accounts for a majority of India-Bangladesh trade through India's Petrapole border.
India’s exports to Bangladesh stood at $9.21 billion in FY19, while imports from that county stood at $1.22 billion, with approximately 500 trucks moving on a daily basis either way. Trade also happens through trains, according to Indian media reports.
Indian border sources said that on the Indian side, 231 trucks are stranded at the Petrapole border while another 572 are parked at a facility managed by the local municipal body.
Around 1,300 trucks are awaiting loading-unloading operations but are now parked at different non-registered/private parking lots nearby.
Meanwhile, on the Benapole side, loading-unloading operations were carried out in 138 trucks, but they are now awaiting clearances. In the case of another 90 trucks, unloading operations are yet to be done.
Truck movement through Petrapole first came to a halt on March 23, after West Bengal imposed a lockdown. Subsequently, the Centre announced a lockdown that began on March 25.
Vehicular movement resumed between April 30 and May 4, when it was decided that trucks would move until the ‘zero point’, where loading-unloading operations take place.
However, truck movement was subsequently stopped following local political trouble. Most of the transport workers and clearing agents in India, alleged that on one hand they had not received any fringe benefits from the government.
On the other hand, fear of the pandemic evolved in the region while no Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was supplied to them, due to which they had stopped working since the first week of May.
Kartik Chakroborti, general secretary of Petrapole Clearing Agents Staff Welfare Association, said: "We can not begin cargo transportation without a green signal from our workers and locals. The State and Central governments (of India) need to come forward to help us deal with the situation.
"West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assured that the Petrapole-Benapole port will be opened soon; Rail link has been operating, now we have to wait and see when the land port can operate," he added.
Local police in India, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus declared Bonga town near the Petrapole border as a 'containment zone.' The zone includes Indian part of Chakda road, Bgda road and Jessore road.
As the main roads for transportation are under the containment zone, only the Indian administration could decide when cargo transport would begin in Benapole region again.
Sazedur Rahman, general secretary at Benapole Customs and C&F agents association, said: "The exports and Imports have been halted in Benapole-Petrapole border for around months. Thousands have gotten unemployed. No one knows when the ports will operate again."