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Trade stuck at border

More than 200 trucks, many of which were carrying coal to Nepal, were stranded on the Indian side, due to the violence. Drivers are still waiting to move ahead.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2006 02:16 IST

The echoes of violence between Nepalese authorities and pro-democracy protestors that is ripping through Kathmandu can be heard in this border town too, which falls on a land trade route between India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Kakarbhitta (on the Nepal side) and Panitanki (Indian side) are joined by a bridge over the Mechi river. The bridge, according to immigration officers, is used by a large number of trucks and smaller vehicles from the three countries to trade in goods like coal.

However, last week had been different. More than 200 trucks, many of which were carrying coal to Nepal, were stranded on the Indian side, due to the violence. Drivers are still waiting to move ahead. Some of the Bangladeshi trucks, transiting through the place, have returned, sustaining losses but saving their lives and goods. “There is always the chance that my truck and the coal in it, would be burnt, or stolen. Who would take the risk,” says truck driver Habul Mollah.

Tourist bus services have also been suspended. Foreigners planning to visit Nepal from Darjeeling are also avoiding the route. “Normally, there are foreign tourists taking this route almost every day. There have been none this week,” says Paritosh Sarkar, who is doubling as immigration officer and in-charge of the local police station.

Sporadic incidents of violence just across the border have deepened the anxiety of those staying in the area, spreading the fear that it’s coming near. The police is on constant alert. So are the Seema Suraksha Bal personnel — the para-military force now responsible for patrolling the Indo-Nepal border. During the Assembly election, the booths around this place will have even more security.