Uncertainty looms over cross border trade amid India-Nepal tension, traders say 80% of business under threat
Many traders are also worried about the huge payment which is due by their Nepalese trade partners.
Amid ongoing tension between India and Nepal over the border issue, traders at the bordering areas are staring at an uncertain future for their business - which largely depends on Nepal.
Banbasa, a town located at the India-Nepal border is about 330 kilometres away from Dehradun and is an entry point for those going to Nepal from Champawat after crossing the bridge over Sharda river.
There are about 550 traders in Banbasa who have traditional trade relations with their counterparts in Kanchanpur, Nepal across the border. After the tensions in India-Nepal relations, Indian traders are majorly concerned about their business which largely depends on their customers from Nepal.
“We have trade relations for years and almost 80 percent of our business depends on our customers from Nepal while the remaining 20 percent on the local market. First, the lockdown affected it and now the tensions between the two countries,” said Shankar Lal Verma, a Banbasa based trader and state secretary of Uttarakhand Vyapar Mandal, a state-based traders body.
Verma said the “unfortunate developments have already affected their trade as it has come down drastically.”
“The traders from Nepal used to buy our vegetables, ration items, hardware, cloth and cosmetics. But now, the business is almost over as not even 5 percent is left. For many traders, their entire business depends on trade with Nepal,” said Verma adding, “many traders who are staying here on rent and doing their business in rented shops are planning to leave the town due to losses.”
Another local trader Sanjay Agrawal, who is also the vice-president of the local trade body, said, “Not only losses, but many traders are also worried about the huge payment which is due to be paid by the Nepalese trade partners”.
“Payment of at least Rs 1 crore is due which is to be paid by the Nepalese traders for the goods they purchased from us. Now, whenever we ask them for the payment over the phone, they are dilly-dallying and asking us to first send more goods after which they will release the payment. We are now stuck and helpless,” said Agrawal.
He added, “A few days ago, representatives of the traders’ body wrote to the district administration to allow a group of traders to cross the border and take their payments but we are yet to get any reply”.
Expressing concern over the prevailing situation, a local social activist Vinod Kala said, “If the situation prevails, it would prove disastrous for the traders as their businesses will be destroyed. Their livelihood would be endangered in this crisis”.
However, if the Nepalese traders are to be believed, there is not much effect on their businesses because of the prevailing situations.
Madhav Prasad Joshi, a trader in Kanchanpur town of Nepal near Banbasa, and member of Sudur Paschim Pradesh Vyapar Mandal, Nepal, said, “The business is hardly affected on the Nepalese side as compared to the Indian side. 90 percent of the customers are Nepalese and only 10 percent are Indian.”
“In our trade relations, it was majorly the Nepalese people who used to visit Banbasa town to buy things and not the other way round. That’s why we are not much affected. Also, only people have been stopped from visiting the two places while trucks carrying goods from there are coming here after passing through customs. This has maintained our supply with no issues as such,” said Joshi.
On the concerns of payment due with the Nepalese traders, Joshi said, “All payment will be made to the Indian traders with no fraud at all”.
“I want to assure our Indian partners that their money will be paid if the trade was legal. If the payment was of any illegal trade, then we can’t give any assurance on that. Else, we will make sure the payment is made under proper norms and regulations,” he said.
Joshi, however, affirmed that the ongoing tension between India and Nepal will “hardly affect the people-to-people relations between the sides”.
“It is completely a political issue and will not affect our friendly relations. We believe that the two governments will soon resolve it politically and our relations will be intact like before,” said Joshi.
Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government said that they are aware of the issues faced by the traders of Banbasa but the solution would be brought at the ‘international level.’