On September 4, a cargo-laden truck from Bangladesh, carrying readymade garments imported by Marks and Spencer India, halted at the customs station at Petrapole in Bangladesh border of West Bengal.
Instead of letting the truck wait for hours in the queue for scanning for security purposes, the authorities fitted a GPS tracking device under the truck's dashboard and the container was sealed electronically. An alert mechanism to prevent any sort tampering of the cargo container was also fitted on.
The vehicle was then allowed to proceed to India and reach its destination at Customs Inland Container Depot at Patparganj, near Delhi. The vehicle was live tracked from Petrapole to Patparganj.
"This marks the first step by Indian Customs at adopting cutting edge technology in facilitating and securing transhipment of import cargo," said a Finance Ministry spokesperson.
Vivek Johri, chief customs commissioner, Delhi zone, said this move will bring an end to the queue system that has been hindering free flow of trade. It will also allow Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) region to fully exploit its potential for integration through trade, he added.
These trials, conducted by the government, are part of a Motor Vehicles Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger and Cargo Vehicular Traffic (MVA) signed between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal in Thimphu, Bhutan, on June 15, 2015.
The MVA allows cargo vehicles registered in any one of the BBIN countries to cross borders and enter any of the other BBIN countries along agreed routes. The trial runs are done keeping in mind real life situations and would aid in finalisation of protocols and fine tuning them.
Going ahead, this move is expected to reduce border congestion significantly and allow traders to clear cargo at a location near them. This effort to provide seamless movement of goods traffic can also lead to reduction of cost of goods transport between these countries and can make the entire process of transportation a lot faster besides improving people-to-people contact between the BBIN nations.
The first cargo trial run was conducted between Kolkata and Agartala through Bangladesh between November 1 and 3, 2015, by DHL. The second trial run is being under way from Dhaka to Delhi from August 20 to September 10, a Finance Ministry statement said.
At Patparganj, Nidhi Dua, country head for Marks and Spencer’s welcomed the trade facilitation move. "We are delighted with this move as it cuts down final delivery time for us by five to six days. This is huge," said Dua.
Also attending the function to welcome the truck from Bangladesh, were Harpreet Singh, chairman, Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC), officials from Bangladesh High Commission, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.