COVID-19: Haats along India-Bangladesh border likely to be shut

Agartala/Shillong, March 11, 2020-

The ‘Border Haats’ (markets) along the India-Bangladesh frontier are likely to be closed for some time as a precautionary measure against the spread of novel coronavirus, officials said on Wednesday.

Currently, four such markets are operational in Meghalaya and Tripura to boost trade in the area and promote livelihood avenues of those living along the international borders in both India and Bangladesh.

Tripura Health and Family Welfare Department Secretary Debashish Basu on Tuesday night issued a notification asking all District Magistrates/Collectors to close the “Border Haats” for the time being in consultation with the Bangladesh authorities.

“As the central government has directed to avoid mass gathering as a precautionary measure against nCoV, we have asked district authorities to shut these border markets for the time being,” Basu told.

South Tripura District’s Additional District Magistrate Suresh Das, who is the Co-Chairman of the Srinagar (Tripura, India)-Chhagalnaiya (Bangladesh) Border Haats management committee, said that the Bangladesh authorities have already decided to suspend the markets for the time being.

“In view of the Bangladesh government’s decision we have also sought the opinion of the state government in this regard. We are yet to get the notification of the Tripura Health and Family Welfare Department Secretary. However, we have already taken some precautionary measures in the ‘Border Haats’,” Das told.

Western Tripura’s Sepahajala District’s Additional District Magistrate Udayan Sinha, who is the Co-Chairman of the Kamnalasagar (Tripura, India )-Kasba (Bangladesh) Border Haats management committee said that they are not aware about any notification of Tripura Health Secretary.

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“The weekly border haat in Kamnalasagar-Kasba was held on Sunday as usual. If we got any government instructions we would definitely abide by that,” Sinha told IANS, adding that they have already taken certain preventative measures.

Meghalaya’s Balat (Meghalaya, India)-Dolora (Bangladesh) Border Haats management committee member KM Syiem said that the border markets are as of now functioning as usual.

“As the central government has already asked the state authorities to shun the public gathering as a precautionary measure, the Meghalaya government would definitely take appropriate steps,” Syiem said, adding that no notification was yet issued regarding the haats.

Meanwhile, Manipur and Mizoram governments have already prohibited the cross border movements of people and border trades along India’s border with Myanmar and Bangladesh alongside the two northeastern states to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus.

The first “Border Haat” had started functioning in July 23, 2011 at Kalaichar (India)-Kurigram (Bangladesh) in the West Garo Hills of Meghalaya. Three other haats followed at Balat (Meghalaya, India)-Dolora (Bangladesh) in 2012, Srinagar (Tripura, India)-Chhagalnaiya (Bangladesh) and Kamnalasagar (Tripura, India )-Kasba (Bangladesh) in 2015.

Four northeastern states of Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam share a 1,880 km border with Bangladesh, while Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh share 1,640-km of unfenced border with Myanmar.

Some 16 to 20 items are available for trading at the haats. These include agricultural and horticultural products, spices, minor forest products (excluding timber), fresh fish (excluding Hilsa) and dry fish, dairy and poultry products, cottage industry commodities, handloom and handicraft products, and garments.  (Agency)

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