61 Indian truckers stranded at Burimari land port for weeks
It has been more than two weeks when they came to Bangladesh's Burimari land port in Patgram with their trucks carrying jute seeds imported from India. But 61 drivers of the vehicles from that country are still stranded there.
The Indian citizens could not return to their homeland as the Indian authorities have been reluctant to allow them back amid the ongoing lockdown enforced in India to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before entering Burimari land port on April 4, the truckers had to remain in quarantine for 14 days at Changrabandha land port in West Bengal of India -- a decision that was enforced by the authorities of both Bangladesh and India.
"We are stranded in Bangladesh as the Changrabandha land port authorities are not allowing us back in India… Our families are worried," said trucker Ramesh Das.
"We've been facing immense difficulties. Since all hotels and restaurants are closed due to the Coronavirus shutdown, we are sleeping in the trucks and cooking our food for ourselves. Even we haven't been able to get in touch with our families at all," he also said.
In the meantime, several talks between the Changrabandha port authorities and clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents as well as export-import dealers of the two countries produced no result.
This correspondent spoke over cell phone about the situation with Uttam Kumar Sarkar, general secretary of C&F agents' association at India's Changrabandha land port.
Uttam said the situation has arisen as the Indian authorities have barred the entry of vehicles through the port due to the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown in the country.
They were trying to get the permission from the Indian authorities for re-entry of the Indian drivers soon, he added.
Alamgir Mia, owner of Rafiq Enterprise, a Dhaka-based business that imports jute seeds from India through the Burimari land port, said the Indian government has already earned foreign currency through the export of the jute seeds to Bangladesh.
And now they are dilly-dallying the process of taking their truckers back -- a move that goes against the rules of international business. "I request the embassies and foreign ministries of both the countries to address the situation at the soonest."
Contacted, Somen Kumar Chakma, assistant commissioner (AC) of customs services at Burimari Land Port, said they have been in constant communication with the higher authorities and their Indian counterparts and that he hoped for a resolution to the situation any moment.
Burimari land port Deputy Director Mahfuzul Islam said the drivers are now staying in their trucks parked inside the premises of the port and C&F agents and importers have been providing food assistance to them.
He also said he informed the local lawmaker, deputy commissioner and police superintendent of the matter already.
Lalmonirhat Deputy Commissioner Abu Zafor said the Indian high commission and the district magistrate of India's Cooch Behar district in West Bengal state have been informed of the situation, but they were still awaiting a resolution to the matter.