The Union government's ambitious integrated checkpost project at the Attari border, aimed at giving a fillip to trade with Pakistan, was announced about one-and-a-half-years ago. August 2011 was set as its deadline, but construction has not even begun at the 120-acre site.
As per the project plan, the checkpost will have truck scanners, customs hall, waiting halls, parking lots and other facilities for trading. However, the ground reality is that apart from acquiring land, the Rs 130-crore project has not witnessed any progress.
After the start of truck traffic between India and Pakistan through the Attari border, it was planned that vehicles plying between the two nations would pass through the proposed checkpost. However, even after acquiring land with much effort, giving compensation to the tune of crores of rupees to landowners and facing protests, the project is hanging fire.
Ever since trade through trucks started via the Attari border, hundreds of trucks cross almost daily, making the integrated checkpost a necessity.
The absence of truck scanners has heightened threats of security and smuggling. With no parking lots, trucks are held up in long queues on the main road leading to the existing joint checkpost.
The Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RITES) company, involved in designing the integrated checkpost, has visited the site a couple of times, but it is yet to submit its final design to the administration. The district administration cites the “lax” approach of the Union government as a major reason for the delay.
Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Kahan Singh Pannu says, “We acquired 120 acres for the project about a year ago. Now, it is up to the Union government and other agencies involved to start work.”
The DC claimed that only preliminary designs of the project had been submitted to them.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a customs official says, “The project was announced with much hype, but it seems to have been confined to files so far. Unless the integrated checkpost, meant exclusively for trade, is set up, problems at the joint checkpost will continue.”
According to Om Parkash, Chairman, Indo-Pak Exporters Association, “The checkpost should come up soon. Once it is set up, there will be more facilities and opportunities for trade. Both the Union and state governments must push hard and start its construction soon.”