Meghalaya resident Tengrak Ch Marak grew up on stories about his
father's trading days at the 'haats' on the border with what was
then East Pakistan. Those markets have reopened after 40 years,
throwing up huge opportunities for trans-border commerce for
people like him in India and his counterparts in Bangladesh.
The haats, once thriving centres of trade and commerce along the
border, were shut down after the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
It is estimated that bilateral trade worth $20 million would take
place annually from all the border haats.
"The revival of these haats is a new beginning for
India-Bangladesh, and I am sure it will benefit our people on both
sides of the border," Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma told
On Saturday morning, Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Anand
Sharma and his Bangladesh counterpart Faruk Khan inaugurated the
border haats at Kalaichar in Meghalaya's West Garo Hills district
and Baliamari of Bangladesh's Kurigram district.
These markets are popular among people on both sides of the border
living in remote enclaves and hilly areas as they find it
difficult to buy and sell products needed in everyday lives.
"Such border haats would soon be revived in many other areas of
the state. The border haat at Balat (in East Khasi Hills district)
and Lauwaghar (Dalora) in Bangladesh's Sunamganj district is also
expected to be reopened within this year," Sangma said.
Tengrak Ch Marak, whose father was a trader at the border market,
said: "It is a new beginning for us and now we can sell our
locally grown products in the border market instead of
transporting them to far off markets."
The haats, aimed at uplifting the economic status of people by
establishing the traditional system of marketing of local produce,
will operate at different timings in summer and winter.
While the timing from March to September would be 9.30 a.m. to
3.30 p.m., the timing from October to February would be 9.30 a.m.
to 2.30 p.m..
Sangma said that local forest produce, cottage industry items,
small agriculture equipments like plough, axe, spade, chisel,
processed food items, fruit juice and melamine products, among
others, have been exempted from Value Added Tax and customs
According to Sanjay K. Goyal, the district administrator of West
Garo Hills, "at present 50 vendors, 25 each from both sides and
around 300 vendees would be allowed to trade in the haat with a
maximum transaction of $50 per day".
Goyal said that both Indian and Bangladeshi currencies would be
used and the State Bank of India (SBI) has been authorised as the
official authority for currency exchange.
"Every Wednesday, officials from the SBI would be present at the
haat for the currency exchange," the official said.
However, Goyal said traders have been told to wear minimal
ornaments to the haat, as asked by the customs, and not to use
The haats would operate within a 1.5-km radius of both sides of
the border under close supervision of the border guards and
customs officials of both the countries.
India is developing seven Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) on the
India-Bangladesh border at Petrapole, Agartala, Dawki, Hili,
Chandrabangha, Sutarkhandi and Kawarpuchiah. It's also developing
infrastructure at eight Land Custom Stations along the border at a
cost of Rs.108.19 crore.
The Land Custom Stations are Borosora, Dalu, Ghasupara, Mahadipur,
Hilli, Phullbari, Srimantpur and Gojadanga. The total projected
cost of all the ICPs and Land Custom Stations being developed is
Four northeastern states - Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam -
share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh, while Meghalaya shares a
443-km border with the 40-year-old nation.
Kalaichar, which is in the western part of Meghalaya, is about 400
km from Shillong, the state capital of Meghalaya.
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