A day after movement of goods trucks through Indo-Bangladesh border was not allowed by the West Bengal government, the Ministry of Home Affairs has written to the state government that its “unilateral decision” was jeopardising India’s international commitments to the neighboring country. It has also told the state that it was violating MHA guidelines that have clearly stated that movement of goods trucks cannot be stopped.
As reported by The Indian Express, four days after resuming operations, India’s biggest land port in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas shut down Monday following protests by Trinamool Congress-backed labour unions and villagers. They were afraid of the novel coronavirus disease spreading from Bangladeshi labourers to Indian drivers and helpers.
The Petrapole checkpost in the Bongaon area of North 24 Parganas district, 83 km from here, had reopened on April 30, over a month after being closed due to the nationwide lockdown imposed by the Centre to contain the pandemic. Though only two trucks were unloaded that day, 18 more could offload their cargo before the movement of goods trucks from the Indian side was again halted on Monday.
In a letter dated May 5 and signed by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, the MHA has said, “…it has been reported that goods traffic through border crossings between India and Bangladesh, falling in the State of West Bengal, has still not resumed. As a result, a large number of trucks carrying essential supplies, bound for Bangladesh, are stranded at different border crossing points. A number of drivers of such vehicles, while returning from Bangladesh, have also not been allowed to cross the border, and are stranded in Bangladesh.”
Reminding the state of its orders on April 24 to allow cross land border transportation of essential goods through all lndia-Nepal, Indo-Bhutan and lndia-Bangladesh borders, the MHA has said a compliance report from the state has still not been received by the ministry.
“…the unilateral action on the part of Government of West Bengal to stop the cross land border movement of essential goods would have larger implications for the Indian Government with regard to its legally binding international commitments. This act of the State Government of West Bengal amounts to violation of the Orders issued by MHA under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 as well as Articles 253, 256 and 257 of the Constitution of India,” the MHA letter said.
Reiterating that its consolidated guidelines for Phase III of the lockdown had specifically mentioned that no state can stop movement of goods trucks for cross-border land trade under treaties with neighbouring countries, the MHA has said, You are therefore again directed to allow cross land border transportation through all Indo Bangladesh borders without any further delay and send the compliance report on opening of cross land borders, by today itself.”
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