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BDR mutiny hits India-Bangladesh trade

At least 500 trucks ferrying goods to Bangladesh, were stranded at the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal's Petrapole as exporters feared a loss of Rs.2 billion following the mutiny by Bangladesh Rifle troopers.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2009 19:50 IST

At least 500 trucks ferrying goods to Bangladesh, were stranded at the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal's Petrapole on Friday as exporters feared a loss of Rs.2 billion ($38.83 million) following the mutiny by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) troopers.

"As of now, at least 500 trucks with both perishable and other goods are stuck at the border," Raja Roy, general secretary, Calcutta Goods Transport Association, told IANS.

West Bengal Exporter Coordination Committee secretary Ujjal Saha said: "In north Bengal, there could be a loss of Rs.2 billion. Vegetables and fruits are becoming stale".

India shares a 4,095 km-long border with Bangladesh, of which the longest stretch - 2,216 km - is in West Bengal.

After the mutiny, vigil was stepped up all along the border. The Border Security Force asked people to keep distance from the border and the authorities restricted movement of vehicles.

The administration on the Indian side suspended operations at the three land customs stations (LCS) in West Bengal - at Mehadipur in Malda district, Hili in south Dinajpur and Chengrabandha in Cooch Behar districts.

The international check post at Petrapole had remained closed for about six hours Thursday following fears that the Bangladesh army personnel could be arriving to take over the outposts at Benapole on the Bangladesh side from the BDR.

The stalemate continued till 3 p.m., and even the two Dhaka-bound buses from Kolkata had to wait. Later on, the buses were allowed to cross over to Bangladesh.

"But till now trucks are not being allowed to go by the customs authorities," Roy said, adding he hoped something positive will happen in a day or two and the normal pace will be restored.

As per a rough estimate, trade worth Rs.3 billion takes place with Bangladesh through West Bengal daily.

An official at Mehadipur said 200 trucks carrying perishable goods were still stranded at the border.

Gunfights broke out inside the BDR headquarters in Dhaka Wednesday morning as BDR troopers mutinied to protest poor wages and frequent transfers.

The government held talks with a delegation of the mutineers Thursday and an agreement was reached but by that time, the mutiny spread to other BDR camps located all over the country.

The revolt ended in the face of an imminent attack by the Bangladesh Army which moved tanks into position outside the BDR headquarters. The mutineers then laid down their arms.

First Published: Feb 27, 2009 19:46 IST