Trade between India-Bangladesh flourishing through Assam’s Karimganj

Assam Governor Gulab Chand Kataria visits the Indo-Bangla border from Sutarkandi to Malegarh during his visit to Karimganj district, on 24 May, 2023ANI

The trade between India and Bangladesh through Sutarkandi Land Port in Assam’s Karimganj district has witnessed a remarkable increase in the past couple of years.

The local businessmen, traders, and local people are expecting that the trade (export and import) between the two neighbouring countries will increase more in the coming days.

According to the Land Ports Authority of India, there are currently 11 Land ports operational in India at Attari, Agartala, Dawki, Petrapole, Raxaul, Rupaidiha, Jogbani, Moreh, Sutarkandi, Srimantapur and PTB at Dera Baba Nanak and in 2023-24, Land Ports in India facilitated trade worth Rs 47,594 crore (475.94 billion) till January 2024.

The Sutarkandi Land Port is located on the international border between India and Bangladesh in the Karimganj district of Assam.

In 2007, the government of Assam built a Border Trade Centre to facilitate foreign trade at Sutarkandi and it is the main customs check post for trade flow.

The centre exports fruits, coal, and silicon. Other items traded at Sutarkandi include palm and soya oil, food items, soft drinks, plastic, household goods, and waste cotton.

Imdadul Hoque Choudhury, a local trader of the Sutarkandi area told ANI that, the trade between India and Bangladesh through Sutarkandi has been gradually improving and locals have also benefitted.

“I have been involved with this since 2016-17. Ten years before, the road connectivity was very poor here and due to bad road connectivity the trade was also affected. After the Modi government came to power trade, and road connectivity have improved. Now there is a good relationship between India and Bangladesh. The Indian government has supported us and many locals are coming out to join this trade and trade has been increasing gradually due to good relations between both governments,” Imdadul Hoque Choudhury said.

He further said that, on an average daily 3,500 stone-laden trucks and 300-400 coal-laden trucks go to Bangladesh. Exports from the Indian side to Bangladesh are increasing.

“Apart from this, the items which have been used in railway construction have also been going to Bangladesh. Ginger has also been exported. There are around 5000 families are directly or indirectly involved in trade at Sutarkandi ICP,” Imdadul Hoque Choudhury said.

On the other hand, Nazrul Islam, another trader in the Sutarkandi area said that, earlier the road connectivity was very bad but now it has improved.

“The export of items from India to Bangladesh has also increased and locals income has also increased. We are now very happy. We have seen development under the Modi government,” Nazrul Islam said.

Meanwhile, going to polls on 26 April in the second phase, Karimganj Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam will have a neck-to-neck and largely triangular fight between BJP, Congress, and AIUDF. Karimganj in south Assam has a sizable number of Muslim voters, particularly Bengali-speaking, who are seen as pro-Congress or AIUDF. Karimganj constituency is in the Barak Valley, a Bengali-dominated region of the state.

At present, Karimganj is with BJP. In 2014, Karimganj was with Badaruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF.

In Karimganj, the BJP has fielded its incumbent parliamentarian Kripanath Mallah. He was elected in the Assam Legislative Assembly elections in 2011 and 2016 from Ratabari constituency.

In the 2019 general elections, Kripanath Mallah won against AIUDF leader Radheshyam Biswas and Congress leader Swarup Das by securing 473,046 votes.

In the 2024 elections, the Karimganj battle will be seen between BJP leader Kripanath Mallah, AIUDF leader Sahabul Islam Choudhury and Congress leader Advocate Hafeez Rashid Ahmed Choudhury.

BJP which is trying to maximise its tally in the state is faced with an uphill task with the minority voters being a significant factor. However, with the AIUDF and the Congress both vying for the minority vote the BJP could benefit from the division.