Travel sector revenues decreased by about Tk 267.5 million in 2021 through Benapole Land Port as the Omicron surge had reduced passenger traffic between Bangladesh and India.
In 2021, only 163,974 people went to India through Benapole whereas 699,107 people travelled to India in 2020. As a result, the traveller traffic on this route has decreased by 535,133 in 2021 as compared to 2020.
About 2 million travellers went to India every year on medical, business, education and travel visas through Benapole International Checkpost due to the ease of communication.
Md Raju, officer-in-charge of Benapole Immigration, said 8,000 to 10,000 travellers used to travel through this route every day before the pandemic. Currently, traveller traffic has been reduced due to restrictions.
The Covid negative certificate through the RT-PCR test within 72 hours is needed for entering and returning from India.
The government earns about Tk 60 billion from the trade sector while the government’s revenue from the travel sector is about Tk 1 billion.
On 13 March, 2020, India imposed restrictions on travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic and suspended trade through land ports on 26 March. However, it allowed domestic flights from May, 2020, and the entry of foreigners except tourists from October.
Later, when the situation became somewhat normal, after four months, the ban on trade through Benapole port was lifted and trade gradually became normal. But, travel on tourist visas is still closed.
Ayub Hossain, a man returning to India, said, “We cannot rely on medical services. Most physicians cannot diagnose the disease.”
Passengers coming from India on business visas said that they are applying for visas by road but they are getting visas by air at present. Again, those who have old visas are also being barred from traveling by Indian immigration on various pretexts.
“Although it is very urgent, I cannot go to India as I need,” the passenger added.
Benapole Immigration’s Health Department Monitoring Officer Mejbaul Hasan said the India returnees were being tested for rapid antigen to prevent Covid infection.
In the last two months, after testing the samples of 140 people, nine people have tested positive.
The infected were tested positive in India. The Covid patients were kept in the red zone of Corona Unit of Jashore Sadar Hospital, the officer added.
Abdul Jalil, deputy director (Traffic) of Benapole Port, said the import-export between the two countries is slowly getting stable amid this pandemic. However, due to the ban on travel, passenger traffic has decreased.