In an attempt to encourage bilateral trade between Bangladesh and India, the customs authorities have planned expansion of rail abilities at Petrapole in West Bengal.
Petrapole (land customs station) accounts for more than half of the USD 4-billion (nearly double the trade volume with Pakistan) bilateral trade between the 2 nations.
While the trade volume is extremely skewed in India’s favour (exports accounting for almost USD 3.5 billion), imports are now on the rise following the fresh removal of trade barriers on a number of items, including textiles and betel nut. Keeping in view the enhanced trade outlook, the Centre has previously undertaken an INR 200-crore project to expand the terminal’s ability from 900 trucks to 2,500 trucks a day.
Petrapole is linked by a single lane road National Highway (NH)-35) with poorly maintained NH-34 connecting Kolkata with North Bengal 61 kilometer (km) away at Barasat. To hit the golden quadrangle (NH-2 and NH-6), truckers need to travel another 30 km towards Kolkata through the narrow and potholed NH-34.
Cargo movement through Petrapole is abysmally slow. With Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal Government refusing to get land, there is little scope to develop the road connectivity either.
As an option, the customs recently planned promoting rail transport for the movement of cargo through Petrapole, according to sources.