transhipment of another 25,000 tonnes of Indian food-grains to Tripura
via Ashuganj river port on humanitarian grounds, without charging any
levies such as customs duties, except the port landing charges.
This was decided at a high-level meeting on transhipment of Indian
food-grains, held at the shipping ministry, with shipping minister
Shajahan Khan in the chair yesterday.
According to sources who
attended the meeting, the proposal to ferry the Indian food-grains,
without charging any levies, was opposed by some officials on the ground
that Bangladesh has allowed such consignments of grains earlier without
It was also decided at the meeting that Bangladesh will
not take any money from India to construct the Ashuganj container
The National Board of Revenue (NBR), which was entrusted
with fixing a rate of duty on transhipment of goods through Ashuganj to
north-eastern Indian states, has failed to fix any duties in this
respect, sources said.
“We have decided to allow transhipment of
25,000 tonnes of Indian food-grains to Tripura through Ashuganj on
humanitarian grounds. They have already transhipped 10,000 tonnes of
food-grains last year, part of the consignment of 35,000 tonnes. But
such consignment will not be allowed further without customs duties,”
shipping minister Shajahan Khan told The Independent.
The minister further said 10,000 tonnes, out of 35,000 tonnes of Indian food-grains, have already been transhipped.
Indian authorities have to pay only the Bangladesh Inland Water
Transport Authority’s (BIWTA’s) port charges. We will construct the
Ashuganj container terminal with our own money. We won’t take any money
from India in this connection,” the shipping minister said in response
to a query.
Sources said the Indian high commission in Bangladesh
requested the foreign ministry on January 30 to allow transhipment of
35,000 tonnes of food-grains from Kolkata to Ashuganj by the river
route, and the remainder by road to Agartala.
Earlier, the Indian
government had pledged to develop a port, including construction of a
container terminal and road facilities, from Ashuganj to Agartala, but
these proposals are still on paper.
However, the Bangladesh
government has allowed India to use 300km of waterways and 50km of
roadways to transport 10,000 tonnes of food-grains on humanitarian
grounds to Tripura, without paying any duty, under a shipping protocol.
transhipment of 5,000 tonnes of rice took place in August while the
remaining 5,000 tonnes were transhipped on October 19 last year.
Bangladeshi authorities, however, informed their cross-border
counterparts that India must pay administrative costs to Bangladesh for
the use of the facilities at the Ashuganj port, sources in the shipping
ministry told The Independent.
In April 2011, an Indian company had
ferried heavy equipment for a power plant at Palatana in Tripura. The
over-dimensional cargoes (ODC) for the plant were ferried by 21 ships on
a trial basis without payment of any levies. Later, the NBR was
entrusted with the responsibility of fixing levies on transhipment of
goods, following criticism from local businessmen. But the charges have
not been fixed yet, sources added.
In October 2011, the Indian
government again transported 3,200 tonnes of ingots to Agartala (in
Tripura) via Ashuganj free of cost, through a ‘voyage’ declaration, on a
According to BIWTA sources, conditions of the port and roads are very poor for ferrying such consignments.