Centre pulls up West Bengal for suspending trade on Indo-Bangla border

In the letter, Bhalla said that closing this border will have larger international repercussions for India regarding its “legally binding international commitments”.
The Centre has yet again pulled up the West Bengal government – this time for violating the Centre’s order on cross-border movement of goods between India and Bangladesh.

In a letter, addressed to West Bengal’s chief secretary, Rajiva Sinha, union home secretary Ajay Bhalla said, “This act of the state government of West Bengal, amounts to violation of the orders issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 as well as Articles 253, 256 and 257 of the Constitution of India”.

While India has trade ties with Bangladesh, which has no restrictions on import and export of goods, the West Bengal government has closed its porous borders with its eastern neighbour in a move to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is some commotion in Petrapole. There are some issues and we will address them”, West Bengal’s home secretary, Alapan Bandyopadhyay said.

Since the start of the lockdown in March, the Petrapole checkpost in the Bongaon area of North 24 Parganas district, 83 km from Kolkata; had reopened on April 30. However, protests erupted in the area on the presumption that Bangladeshi labourers were carrying the virus which would affect Indian drivers and helpers and operations closed down on the same day.

In the letter, Bhalla said that closing this border would have larger international repercussions for India regarding its “legally binding international commitments”.

Appealing to open the border for trade immediately, Bhalla has asked West Bengal to send a compliance report.

In an earlier communication last month, Bhalla said that West Bengal had closed its international borders with Nepal as well as Bhutan unilaterally, affecting India’s international interests.

While movement of goods to Nepal and Bhutan as eased, the same has not been the case with Bangladesh. India has friendly relations with these three countries.

It is estimated that over 2100 trucks, carrying essential supplies towards Bangladesh are held up at the Petrapole border in West Bengal since March and drivers returning to India from Bangladesh are also denied entry by the West Bengal government.

The state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee has previously elucidated on the strategic position of West Bengal and stated that borders needed to be closed to contain Covid-19 spread in the state.

Opposition attacks, TMC retaliates

After facing attacks from opposition parties, the governor, the Centre and others, in its aptness of controlling Covid-19 and the lockdown, Trinamool Congress has started its political retaliation with party leaders like Derek O’Brien, Partha Chatterjee, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Chandrima Bhattacharya and others attacking the state’s governor, the Centre and the BJP.

O’Brien, on Wednesday alleged that the PM Cares fund, where large corporate houses have donated generously, is a BJP fund in effect and funds are not being given to states by the Centre.

Party leaders attacked the BJP of spreading fake news to destabilise West Bengal and mislead people as well as refered to BJP ruled states like Gujarat which witnessed several lockdown violations.

The moves after party strategist Prashant Kishore travelled to West Bengal during the lockdown and opposition parties daily pulled up the state government for its failure to handle the Covid-19 situation as well as the lockdown.


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