All three rapid neighbours of India on its jap facet – Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal – rely on this trade and transit corridor for their direct in addition to third nation trade to attach with ports in India and Bangladesh. It offers transit entry to Bangladesh for its trade with Nepal and Bhutan. Furthermore, being a very powerful tri-junction in the Asian Highway-2 (AH-2), it serves as an intersection level between this freeway and the Asian Highway-48, which connects India and Bhutan.
With established and rising trade, transit and logistics connectivity, the potential of Siliguri can assist materialise an inclusive transport-led development for this area, preserving northeast India at its centre. However, the efficiency of this corridor is at present plagued with asymmetrical trade and transport infrastructure in addition to coverage, practices and folks’s participation gaps.
For instance, the promise of realising built-in infrastructure for cross-border trade and motion of folks in the shape of Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) on the Indian sides of the borders to Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh just isn’t but totally exploited.
A main cause for this delay is absence of correct cooperation between the Union and the West Bengal State authorities. As a consequence, the efforts to develop ICPs at Jaigaon and Panitanki – connecting Bhutan and Nepal, respectively – are getting adversely affected although the opposite sides of these border areas are geared up with higher infrastructure to facilitate the motion of items and folks.
In phrases of access-to and availability-of inter-modal connections, Siliguri is linked to Bagdogra International Airport and New Jalpaiguri Junction Railway Station of the Northeast Frontier Railway, and additionally has a dry port. The dry port is developed underneath a public-private partnership with a possible to cater to transit trade and home motion of containerised cargo from roadways to railways. However, it’s but to be totally operationalised regardless of receiving the award for its building in 2015.
Similarly, its connectivity to Hasimara by means of the rail hyperlink is a possible service to Bhutan. In this context, the feasibility of zero to 5 rail-links between India and Bhutan together with that of a 17.52 kilometre line between Hasimara in West Bengal to Phuentsholing/Pasakha in Bhutan is to be thought-about. Not solely that it may possibly encourage the event of devoted freight corridors of worldwide significance but additionally to facilitate cross-border motion of folks.
As of now, the rail hyperlink to Hasimara has a single and non-electrified observe for each passenger and freight trains. Besides expediting the event of cross-border devoted freight and passenger railway linkages, Indian and Bhutanese governments ought to guarantee personal sector and civil society participation from its idea to implementation for an improved functionality.
With that, the potential to rework road-borne freights to rail-borne in a containerised format over electrified rail networks will probably be important with much less congestion but extra strong and resilient infrastructure community. The containerisation of freights can be vital for effectively utilising the established and rising inland waterways linkages accessible in and round these places.
Similarly, the efficiency of border infrastructure at Panitanki is to be enhanced in order to enhance the standard of trade and transit cargo actions to and from Nepal. The AH-2 and the Mechi River Bridge can play a transformative function. However, issues corresponding to insufficient parking house for vehicles, circumstances of labourers, absence of testing and certification capacities on the Panitanki border and in Siliguri are likely to dampen the infrastructure and trade facilitation reforms undertaken by the 2 international locations.
Furthermore, recurring affect of infrastructure and trade facilitation reforms on the lives and livelihoods of border communities stays non-existent. For instance, as half of land acquisition for AH-2, the border communities had been compensated and land-use conversions had been coordinated with an in-principle assurance to resolve issues pertaining to consuming water wants. In actuality, whereas the Indian facet of the AH-2 is yielding business advantages to public and personal entities, its affect on the border communities continues to be insignificant.
On the opposite hand, the cross-border infrastructure at Phulbari that caters to Banglabandha border in Bangladesh is comparatively higher in phrases of built-in services and operations pertaining to the motion of trade and transit cargo and that of the folks. Several classes will be drawn from its operational experiences and needs to be replicated.
However, a bigger concern is regardless of catering to essential linkages, the expertise of folks residing in addition to transferring by means of Siliguri is pitiful. Jam-packed roads and haphazard motion and parking of vehicles, amongst others, is a regular sight. An extended-held political demand to resolve the issue of congestion by negotiating and creating an extra corridor linking totally different components of West Bengal by way of Bangladesh and bypassing Siliguri stays unattended.
On the traces of the Tinbigha corridor, which connects totally different components of Bangladesh by way of an Indian territory, this may be completed in Tetulia connecting North Dinajpur with Jalpaiguri districts of West Bengal by way of Bangladesh. This is nearly a six kilometres stretch and may even be in the shape of an elevated street. There is, of course, resistance from transporters’ cartel which is exploiting trade and transit infrastructure in Siliguri for their profiteering.
In brief, trade- and people-centric infrastructure improvement in and across the Siliguri corridor that promotes ease of doing enterprise in addition to ease of residing whereas enabling socio-economic welfare of border communities is an crucial and its time had arrived. With that, the Siliguri corridor will act as a check mattress for framing and implementing inclusive and sustainable trade and transit connectivity linkages with our rapid neighbours.
Bipul Chatterjee and Prashant Sharma are Executive Director and Assistant Director respectively, CUTS International, a world public coverage think- and action-tank on trade, laws and governance