TT, Siliguri, Feb. 20: The central government has decided to open two new land customs stations in north Bengal to boost the trade with neighbouring countries.
The customs stations would come up at Raiganj railway station in North Dinajpur and Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri district. Raiganj is located close to Bangladesh and Nagrakata is near the Bhutan boundary.
As of now, there are six other land customs stations along the international borders in north Bengal. They are at Mahdipur in Malda district, Changrabandha in Cooch Behar district, Hilli in South Dinajpur district, Panitanki in Darjeeling district, Fulbari in Jalpaiguri district and Jaigaon in Alipurduar district.
Sources said the notification for the two new land customs station had been issued last month by the Central Board of Excise and Customs.
Once the new stations start functioning, it will open a new opportunity for exporters in this part of the state who can then avail themselves of new trade routes to the neighbouring countries.
"We welcome the decision taken by the Centre. It will definitely help exporters of north Bengal. On several occasions, we had raised the demand to start export of goods through Radhikapur in North Dinajpur. Once the new trade route opens, exporters can send their goods from Raiganj station to Birol station of Bangladesh through the rail track at Radhikapur (the last station of India). Similarly the exporters from Bhutan can also use the customs station at Nagrakata," Biswajit Das, the general secretary of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industries, North Bengal, said here today.
According to the exporters, there are over 150 traders, who have licences for exporting goods from the region to the adjoining neighbouring countries, mostly Bangladesh.
Usually, stones, food grains and seasonal fruits are some of the important items which they export on a regular basis to Bangladesh. Several other items are also sent to Nepal and Bhutan.
"Exporters earlier used to send stones from Pakur (in Jharkhand) and corns from Dalkhola of North Dinajpur district through the India-Bangladesh borders of Malda or South Dinajpur districts. Once the Raiganj station opens, it will be more convenient for them to send such items to Bangladesh through this new rail route. Similarly, Bhutan can also use the new route through Nagrakata," Tapan Das, the president of the NB Exporters Association, said.
In Raiganj, representatives of trade bodies have expressed satisfaction over the decision.
In September last year, the Northeast Frontier Railway had finished laying the track till Radhikapur. On September 14, an engine ran till the zero point on a trial basis. On the other side of the border is Birol station of Bangladesh, where the government has already laid the track around three years back.
In 1857, railway tracks were built between Radhikapur and Calcutta via Dinajpur, which is now in Bangladesh. It was a meter gauge track and was converted into broad gauge in 2005.
Last year, construction of the 400-metre-stretch, connecting Radhikapur station with the zero point, was completed.
"We have come to know that senior officials of the railways will visit Radhikapur and the border in two-three days. It seems that the ball has finally started rolling and soon, we would be able to send goods to Bangladesh along Radhikapur-Birol route," an exporter based in Raiganj, said.
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