ID cards for selected border haat traders of India & B'desh

SHILLONG: Customs officials from India and Bangladesh on Wednesday decided to issue identity cards to "selected" traders after resumption of the age-old border haats (markets) on both sides of the international border that Meghalaya shares with the neighbouring country.

"Customs departments of both the countries are carrying out the documentation process now. Border trade will be free of duty and restricted to selected people in and around the border villages only," said superintendent (technical) of Customs (India) AN Pal on the sidelines of a meeting between customs officials of both the countries here on Wednesday.

"It is being done to ensure smooth trade and make the process simpler," Pal said adding that the next such meet would be held in Chittagong.

On the other hand, Bangladesh on Wednesday urged India to "systematize" issuance of "car passes", vis-Ã -vis border trade even as Customs officials from both sides agreed to issue identity cards to `selected` traders from both sides to make the age-old border haats functional and more secure.

Customs officials of India and Bangladesh discussed various issues relating to bilateral trade between the two countries, and mulled ways and means to streamline and simplify movement of exports and imports across the international border.

"The biennial meeting here took up minor problems faced by exporters and importers in a bid to address them at local level," an official said.

The Bangladeshi delegation was led by Commissioner of Customs (Dhaka North) Enayat Hussain, while the Indian side was headed by North East Customs commissioner SR Barua.

The Bangladeshi side expressed the need for dumping places within the Customs area in India for goods coming in from the neighbouring country.

Hussain said proposals to set up more Land Customs Station were taken up at the meeting, besides the border haat (market) to be set up at Balat along the Meghalaya international border as a pilot project to revive the traditional border markets.

Both sides also discussed a proposal to issue "standard passes" to the vehicles of exporters and importers carrying goods through the international border.

North East Customs Commissioner SR Barua said the passes, to be issued by a competent authority of the respective country, were required for security issues. "It will ensure that the same person and vehicle comes back. These passes would be issued through simplified procedures in place of passport and VISA which is much more complicated," he said, adding the passes would carry details of the driver, attendee and the vehicle.

The minutes of the meet will be submitted to the respective Excise and Customs boards for further deliberations and decisions.

It is reported that Bangladesh's official imports from India during 2009-10 stood at over $3. 2 billion while Bangladesh was able to export only $304.63 million worth. However, in the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, Bangladesh's exports stood at $359 million. Besides formal trade, informal imports from India are worth billions of dollars.

Twenty-three of the total 32 LCS in the Bangladesh border in the region are presently functional.