Bijoynagar LC station has no customs house for 14 years
Since its inception in 1997, the Bijoynagar import-only Land Customs Station is operating without a customs house or security checkpoint, letting truckloads of 'coal' into Bangladesh everyday almost without any checks.
The LC Station was opened 14 years ago to facilitate coal import from India but so far no initiative has been taken to man the overland import point.
A tin-shed room, which remains locked round-the-year, is the only sign of the facility that sees coal worth crores of taka getting into the country. At times a constable is seen roaming around the spot without much to do other than witnessing the arrival and departure of the Indian trucks, some importers and people in the vicinity said.
At least 47 coal importers of Bangladesh pay taxes with the Netrakona-based Customs and Excise office and place their order with the Indian exporters. Indian trucks loaded with coal enter Bangladesh unchecked and return after unloading. Regarding the nature of the goods or quantity, whatever is shown on paper is final. Nobody is there at the border point to physically check how much coal is coming, or whether any forbidden goods are entering Bangladesh in the name of coal.
Netrakona Customs, Excise and Vat office shows coal worth Tk 7.33 crore was imported from India in the last financial year through the LC Station. But local people said that taking advantage of the unmanned border, an unscrupulous quarter is bringing twice the permitted amount of coal, depriving the government of huge revenues.
Swapon Hazong, Vice President of the Bangladesh Hazong Unnayan Sangathan, at the border town of Durgapur said that the unmanned border is also a threat to security in the area.
"Bad guys from both the countries may take this advantage and smuggle arms and drugs. They can also flee country through the unchecked border," he said.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Netrakona Anwar Hossen Chowdhury admitted that the border trade is taking place almost without any checking. He, however, said that the government has taken steps to repair the dilapidated road to Bijoypur and to provide other facilities.
"All development work will be finished within this year," he added.
Importers said they several times demanded setting up of full-fledged customs facility at the border point to save time and avoid the hassle of, travelling to Netrakona town for paper work.
Rupon Saha, a coal importer of Bijoypur, told this correspondent that the bad road communication between Netrakona and the border also poses a big problem for the importers.
Another importer from Durgapur, Ranjit Sen, said that a customs office at Bijoynagar LC Station would relieve them of a lot of hassle and also secure the border.
"We also need a better road communication to bring down coal prices," he said.
Assistant Commissioner of Netrakona Customs and Excise Marufur Rahman said more people will start using the port once the infrastructural facilities are developed.