Residents of the northern region have faced serious problems traveling to India as the neighboring country closed its Sonamasjid-Mehadipur route for passenger travel for more than two years.
The passengers alleged that they had to travel a long way to enter India through the Benapole immigration checkpoint, which cost them extra money and time.
According to Bangladesh Land Ports Authority officials, the government announced the suspension of passenger travel at all twelve land ports in March 2020 amid rising Covid-19 infections.
Authorities resumed two of the twelve land ports – Benapole and Akhaura land ports – on March 30, 2022, after two years of restrictions, and resumed operation of seven other land ports later.
BLPA public relations officer Abu Saleh, however, told New Age that passenger travel is now suspended at three land ports – Nakugaon land port in Sherpur, Sonahat land port in Kurigram and from Teknaf to Cox’s Bazar.
Alimuzzaman, traffic inspector at Sonamasjid land port, told New Age on Sunday that passenger travel has been totally halted on the Sonamasjid-Mahadipur road since March 2020.
People are suffering from traveling to India for various purposes as this important route has been closed to passengers for over two years.
They said passengers from Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Natore, Pabna, Sirajganj and Naogaon districts can easily get to India via Sonamosjid immigration checkpoint as it is an easy route to travel anywhere in India as Malda Railway Station in West Bengal was connected to any city in India by rail and road.
But now they had to travel a long distance to enter India through the land port of Benapole, which cost them extra money and time, with immense suffering.
Saifuddin Bishwas, a trader from Gomastapur upazila in Chapainawabganj district, told New Age that he used to leave his home in the morning and reach India’s Malda city by noon via the port. Land of Sonamasjid.
He said it took three days to reach Malda in West Bengal via the Benapole immigration checkpoint.
Saifuddin said he traveled 91 kilometers by road from Gomastapur and spent the night in Rajshahi on July 8. On the morning of July 9, he took the Kapotaksha Express train from Rajshahi to Khulna and got off at Jessore in the afternoon from where he took another bus and reached Benapole port in the evening.
He said he had to stop at three other stations and travel 284 kilometers to reach Malda by train.
Saidur Rahman, a resident of Kalma village under Tanore upazila in Rajshahi, said he traveled to India via Benapole for treatment.
He said he had to wait in line for four hours to get clearance at the immigration checkpoint.
Sub-Inspector Zafar Iqbal, Sonamasjid land port checkpoint officer, told New Age that officials at Mahadipur immigration checkpoint in West Bengal do not accept Bangladeshi travelers via this route. “It was not our decision to suspend passenger travel through this land port,” he explained.
Contacted, Md Abdul Baten, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Rajshahi Range, said they are ready to start traveling passengers checking passports at Sonamasjid Immigration Checkpoint.
“Unless the Indian authorities open this route for passenger transport, there is nothing we can do,” he added.