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Print trouble halts Petrapole export

Of the 23 land ports between India and Bangladesh, Petrapole is the biggest and accounts for over 60% of the trade

By Subhasish Chaudhuri in Petrapole

  • Published 4.11.19, 12:41 AM
  • Updated 4.11.19, 12:41 AM
Some of the Indian trucks stranded in Petrapole.
Some of the Indian trucks stranded in Petrapole. Picture by Chanchal Pal

Exports to Bangladesh through the Petrapole land port has been suspended for two consecutive days since Friday as all printers used by the Central Warehousing Corporation to print the final order for the cargo movement became defunct.

More than 1,000 trucks were left stranded on the India side of the border as they didn’t receive the ‘Let Export Orders’ — Leo in exporters’ parlance which is the final legal procedure to move goods out of the country.

After clearance by the customs that assesses the value of goods and inspects the cargo, the CWC issues the necessary document. “The situation is beyond control and it would take at least a week to resume normal service,” said a CWC official.

According to him, the CWC has three printers at the Petrapole land port, of which two had not been working for about two months. But on Friday, the remaining one also went out of order, resulting in a virtual halt to the Indian export to Bangladesh through Petrapole.

Out of the 23 land ports between India and Bangladesh, Petrapole is the biggest and accounts for over 60 per cent of the trade.

The delay angered transporters and clearing agents, who accused the CWC of “sheer callousness” that led to such an unusual suspension of export and demanded an alternative arrangement. However, the CWC authorities have ruled out making any alternative arrangement as the “online security system” does not support any local procedure.

“There would be an overall loss of more than Rs 100 crore for such an inordinate delay. Several of these cargo vehicles are carrying perishable items. Moreover, the transporters have to take the burden of parking fee of least Rs 100 to Rs 300 per day”, said Kartick Chakraborty, the secretary of the Petrapole Clearing Agents’ Welfare Association.

According to him, the complete shutdown of exports is an embarrassment for India as the integrated system on the other side of the border — that allows Bangladeshi cargo vehicles to enter India after clearance — is running efficiently.

“This is surprising,” Chakraborty added, referring to the fact that Petrapole was upgraded to an integrated check post, from a land customs station, as part of the government’s plan to improve trade with neighbours.

A CWC official at Petrapole said new printers had been ordered. “We are expecting the printers to arrive by Wednesday. But it would take at least three more days for their installation,” said Debdoot Datta, manager of the CWC at Petrapole.

The CWC is a public sector undertaking and a premier warehousing agency in the country that provides logistic services, including clearing and handling of exports and imports.

Shiv Sagar, assistant commissioner of customs in Petrapole, said: “I wrote a number of letters urging the CWC authorities to get the printers replaced. I also verbally told the manager here the same. But it appears that they did not take any action.”

“The customs officials are doing their best for clearance round the clock. Still, they are suffering for a technical problem for which we are not responsible,” he added.

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