We're Live Bangla Sunday, April 18, 2021

Election process in Bengal is putting Bhutan-Bangladesh trade under pressure

ECONOMY-1

With the rising mercury level around the election process in Bengal, life is getting tougher there for thousands of Indians involved in Bhutan Bangladesh trade. Geographically sandwiched between the two, India provides passage to the bilateral trade of which many Indians are indirect beneficiaries.

Landlocked Bhutan is almost completely dependent on transit passage over Indian land to touch Bangladesh. As per Bhutan Ministry of Finance statistics, the two countries enjoy an annual bilateral trade worth around INR 400 crore. Though not too big a figure for Bangladesh, according to United Nations Statistical Division, it is nearly 4% of Bhutan's entire foreign trade.

"Interestingly, maximum portion of this trade activity on India land is handled by Indian operators including agents, transporters, packers etc." said B. Pradhan, a transporter from important Indo Bhutan border town and trade establishment Jaigaon, adjacent to Bhutan's Phuentsholling in the other side of Border.

As estimated, around 10,000 Indian people from Jaigaon and other Indian towns in West Bengal foothills are directly or indirectly involved in Bhutan's trade activities.

Vehicles plying between Bangladesh from Bhutan need to traverse over West Bengal land for around 100 km. Bottlenecking in these routes due to political disturbance, mainly on separate statehood demand, is common. "But the situation becomes much more complicated during election," said an exporter's agent from Bhutan.

"Now, frequency of security checking or imposition of sec 144 along the transport route will go up significantly. In addition all the government offices we need to touch will have election works as first priority. All these put together will make things too tough for us," said K. Biswas, an exporters agent.

In addition, "Huge numbers of vehicles will be seized by the government for the election process making transportation too difficult," said a transporter at Siliguri, the most important trade center in northern West Bengal.

At this juncture, business partners in both Bangladesh and Bhutan have started pulling down their activities with indirect but large scale impact on the Indian beneficiaries of the whole process at ground level.