In a letter, addressed to West Bengal’s chief secretary, Rajiva Sinha, union home secretary Ajay Bhalla said, “This act of the state government of West Bengal, amounts to violation of the orders issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 as well as Articles 253, 256 and 257 of the Constitution of India”.
While India has trade ties with Bangladesh, which has no restrictions on import and export of goods, the West Bengal government has closed its porous borders with its eastern neighbour in a move to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is some commotion in Petrapole.
There are some issues and we will address them”, West Bengal’s home secretary, Alapan Bandyopadhyay said.
Since the start of the lockdown in March, the Petrapole checkpost in the Bongaon area of North 24 Parganas district, 83 km from Kolkata; had reopened on April 30. However, protests erupted in the area on the presumption that Bangladeshi labourers were carrying the virus which would affect Indian drivers and helpers and operations closed down on the same day.
In the letter, Bhalla said that closing this border would have larger international repercussions for India regarding its “legally binding international commitments”.
Appealing to open the border for trade immediately, Bhalla has asked West Bengal to send a compliance report.
In an earlier communication last month, Bhalla said that West Bengal had closed its international borders with Nepal as well as Bhutan unilaterally, affecting India’s international interests.
While movement of goods to Nepal and Bhutan as eased, the same has not been the case with Bangladesh. India has friendly relations with these three countries.
It is estimated that over 2100 trucks, carrying essential supplies towards Bangladesh are held up at the Petrapole border in West Bengal since March and drivers returning to India from Bangladesh are also denied entry by the West Bengal government.
The state’s chief minister, Mamata Banerjee has previously elucidated on the strategic position of West Bengal and stated that borders needed to be closed to contain Covid-19 spread in the state.