Global Destination, Global rage are the Border Haats in India-Bangladesh Border. Thanks to overt initiatives by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Border Haats are being overtly frequented by the denizens from all over the countries as also from the West thereby multiplying revbues for both the countries.
The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its ex-post-facto approval for the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Bangladesh for (i) MoU and Mode of Operation of Border Haats signed on 23.10.2010 with Bangladesh for setting up Border Haats on India-Bangladesh Border, (ii) addendum to the MoU signed on 15.5.2012; (iii) to establish new Border Haats after identification of suitable locations in consultation with Government of Bangladesh and concerned State Governments and (iv) to modify/revise the terms and condition of the above MoU/Addendum in consultation with relevant State Governments/Central Government agencies and Government of Bangladesh.
The Border Haats aim at promoting the well-being of the people dwelling in remote areas across the borders of two countries, by establishing traditional system of marketing the local produce thorough local markets in local currency and/or barter basis. Though not significant as a percentage of bilateral trade, these measures help to improve economic well-being of marginalised sections of society.
Background: During the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister to India on 10-13 January, 2010, it was agreed that Border Haats shall be established on a pilot basis at selected areas, including on the Meghalaya border, to allow trade in specified products and in accordance with the regulations agreed and notified by both Governments.
In order to implement the same,an MoU and the Mode of operation of Border Haats across the border between Bangladesh and lndia was signed on 23rd October, 2010, Subsequently, an Addendum to Mode of operation of Border Haats across the Border between Bangladesh and India was also signed on 15th May, 2012.
The following Border Haats are already operational: Kalaichar (Meghalaya-Bangladesh, border), Balat (Meghalaya-Bangladesh, border), Kamlasagar (Tripura-Bangladesh, border, Srinagar (Tripura-Bangladesh border). In addition, both the Government have agreed to further establish two Border Haats in Tripura and four Border Haats in Meghalaya on the Bangladesh border.
After the success of the two border haats (markets) in Kalaichar and Balat, the Meghalaya Government on Thursdaysaid that it has proposed to the Central Government for setting up 22 similar Haats along the International border.
Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma said during the conclusion of the “policy meeting on Economic and Transport development in the border areas in Eastern and South Asia,” that the State Government had initially thought of setting up 12 such Haats, but has revised the proposal and has now requested the centre to set up 22 such haats.
Meghalaya shares a 443-km long International border with Bangladesh. These areas were hub of trade and commerce during the pre-partition era and also after it for a while.
People from the hills of Meghalaya and plains, from present day Bangladesh, carried out barter trade dealing primarily in agro products in these border haats. Some of these border haats dates back to the Mughal era when trade flourished.
But after relations between the two countries soured, when Bangladesh attained freedom from West Pakistan in 1971, these haats were closed and the economically well-off people in these areas lost their means of livelihood.
Dr Sangma said that after the partition the border became an “area of conflict” which needs to be reversed. “Post partition the border became an area of conflict with mistrust,” the Chief Minister said.
He added that this area can become “areas of prosperity and trust” with “people to people contact” and other socio-economic activities. “Apart from the economic activities the border haats can act in social integration of the people,” he said.
Presently, Meghalaya is the only State in India to have border haats with Bangladesh although there are proposals to open similar haats in Assam, Tripura and other States with their respective border with Bangladesh, Dr Sangma informed.
In July 2011 the first border haat was opened after 40 years of its closure in Kalaichar, Garo Hills Meghalaya and Baliamari in Bangladesh. Subsequently, another haat was opened in East Khasi Hills in Balat and Lauwaghar in Bangladesh.
These haats have been set up within 5 km range from the International border and trades in several listed items agreed by the two nations that include local agro-horticultural products, spices, fish, dairy and poultry products, cottage industry items, and others. No local tax is included in these markets and people from both sides are free to trade using Indian and Bangladeshi currency.
The CM said that Meghalaya has a lot to offer and gain from these haats and cited an example saying the closure of the trading marts has hit Jackfruit trade that is grown abundantly in Garo Hills. He said that the fruit now goes to waste and many orchards have been abandoned and felled by the locals due to diminishing demand.
Meanwhile, the policy meet recommended after its conclusion that the northeastern region needs to develop its poor transportation system, especially along the border areas.
It further recommended that more border haats be opened and the old ones need to be revived. It further suggested that Special Economic Zones be created along the border so that locally produced items could be value added in these zones for export to countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and further beyond.