Money

Indian side ‘indifferent’ to repairing damaged bridge

- LILA BALLAV GHIMIRE, BATHANA (INDIA)

Sep 20, 2017-

Nepali industrialists in Biratnagar have blamed Indian authorities for not taking the initiative in repairing a flood-damaged bridge at Mirjungghat in India. This has seriously affected Nepal-India trade via Biratnagar border point.

Last month’s massive floods had damaged the bridge at Mirjungghat and a 4-km-long railway track linking Jogbani in India, which led to disruption of trade with India as cargo vehicles couldn’t enter Nepal through Biratnagar border. A section of the bridge collapsed after a pillar supporting it caved due to the flood.

While rail services have resumed operations after 10 days, Indian authorities are carrying out repair works at a sluggish pace. Even cargo trains from Kolkata port have started arriving at Jogbani after 28 days of service disruption due to floods.

Nepali traders and industrialists are unsure about when the bridge will resume operations as Indian authorities are showing an indifference to repairing it.

Due to disruption in cross-border trade, the bordering market looks deserted even during the festive season. “It is hard to believe that Indian authorities can’t repair a simple bridge in a month,” said Pawan Sarada, president of Merchant Association of Morang. “The lackadaisical attitude shown by Indian authorities has not only hampered  trade between the two countries, but also the marred the factories located at Sunsari-Morang industrial corridor.” More than 500 factories in the Sunsari-Morang industrial corridor use the Biratnagar-Jogbani customs point to import raw materials and export finished products. Without the bridge, they have been hit hard financially and are facing the risk of temporary closure. The bridge can come into operation after simple repairs but the Indian authorities seem to be indifferent about the economic problems faced by Nepali businesses. 

Although the government made a temporary arrangement to reroute shipments through the Bhimnagar-Bhantabari small customs checkpoint in order to keep supply lines to the industrial corridor open, it has failed to yield desired results due to a narrow road where 40-feet containers can’t pass easily.  Likewise, people travelling to India for medical treatment have been much inconvenienced due to the damaged road and rail links. They have to ride an electric rickshaw to reach the nearest Indian town 6 km away to catch a bus.

Meanwhile, revenue collection by Biratnagar customs also plunged by almost 50 percent due to the halt in trade. Earlier, Biratnagar custom used to collect around

Rs80 million daily from imports. But collection came down to Rs 40 million daily after the flood.

Published: 20-09-2017 08:39

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