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Kalaichar border haat opened,
From Our Correspondent
TURA: A colossal stride in the building of a stronger relationship between India and Bangladesh by the reviving of their historic bonding through trade was made following the joint inauguration of Meghalaya’s first border haat at Kalaichar in West Garo Hills and Baliamari across the border in Kurigram district of Bangladesh on Saturday.
The opening of the border haat was jointly undertaken by India’s Union Minister for Commerce Anand Sharma and and Bangladesh Commerce Minister Muhammad Faruk Khan together with Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma.
A colorful welcome was accorded to all the dignitaries on their arrival at Kalaichar border in West Garo Hills for the inauguration of the haat with a very large number of onlookers from Bangladesh perched on river boats eagerly witnessing the historical event.
Union Commerce minister Anand Sharma said the demand for opening of the border haats has been long sought and it assumes significance given that trade either through currency or barter system had taken place for centuries.
He showered laurels on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for their commitment in ensuring the opening of border trade.
“Border trade was a part of our culture, tradition and heritage. It was ruptured for reasons known but today there is a firm commitment to elevate the relationship to a higher level by both countries,” said Sharma much to the applause of the crowd.
He informed that the relationship of both countries was further strengthened following the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi in 2010 during which time one important step was taken to restore border trade.
The Union Minister also announced that more border haats would be opened in Meghalaya with the next joint inauguration between India and Bangladesh expected to take place in Khasi Hills in the month of October, this year.
“No two other countries share the kind of relationship we have. It is distinct, it is different and it is special,” said Sharma.
According to the Union Minister, India is keen to partner with Bangladeshi companies in building capacities through Information Technology education and capacity building centres.
The haat is aimed at promoting the marketing of local produce. The commodities to be sold at the haat would be out of the purview of customs duties. The commodities would also be allowed for exchange in either local currency or barter system. The estimated value of such purchases shall not be more than the respective local currency equivalent of US $50 for any particular day.
Villagers living within the five km radius of the border haat will be permitted to sell and buy products in the border haats and this renewed cross border trade is expected to benefit over 10,000 people living in 42 villages on the Indian side of the border.
Bangladesh Commerce Minister Muhammad Faruk Khan termed the inauguration as a historical moment that would not only improve the economy of the people living on both sides of the border but also strengthen the friendship and brotherhood of the two neighbours.
“Both the governments are making efforts to generate economic extremity and Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s scheduled visit to our country this year will boost trade and commerce of both the nations,” noted Khan.
Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma said the opening of border trade would lead to great transformation in the lives of the people and resources available in the north-eastern part of this country can be tapped properly with the right kind of market through Bangladesh.
Dr Sangma also pointed out that Chittagong port in Bangladesh, which is approximately seven hours journey by road from Meghalaya border, could play an important role in export of trade thereby boosting the State’s revenue.
Border trade in the Garo Hills sector was brimming until the 1971 war which led to a total closure. Prior to that, residents from Bangladesh, then called East Pakistan, used to cross over regularly for exchange of goods.
Historians claim that border trade from Garo Hills to Bangladesh was present even during the Mughal period.