Even after imposing certain relaxations on transportation and trade during the third phase of lockdown, the Ministry of Home Affairs asked the West Bengal government once again to allow movement of goods through India-Bangladesh border, after finding that the guidelines were not being met.
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Stating that the West Bengal government is flouting the Centre’s guidelines, the ministry pointed out that hindering movement could get in the way of India fulfilling its international commitments with our neighbouring countries.
Ajay Bhalla, Union Home Secretary, wrote an extremely critical letter to the West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha, saying that “the unilateral action on the part of government of West Bengal to stop the cross land border movement of essential goods would have larger implications for the Indian government with regard to its legally binding international commitments.”
In the letter, Bhalla reiterated that by doing so, West Bengal was not just violating the ministry of home affairs’ orders under Disaster Management Act including the guidelines but also Articles 253, 256 and 257 of the Constitution of India. Article 253 of the Constitution deals with the legislation for giving effect to international agreements while articles 256 and 257 give powers to the Centre for issuing directions to the state that are obligatory for latter.
In his letter, he further said, “It has been reported that goods traffic through border crossings between India and Bangladesh, falling in West Bengal, has still not resumed. As a result, a large number of trucks carrying essential supplies, bound for Bangladesh, are stranded at different border crossing points.”.
“A number of drivers of such vehicles, while returning from Bangladesh, have also not been allowed to cross the border, and are stranded in Bangladesh,” he added.
Bhalla pointed out that in lieu of the revised guidelines issued by the government for the third phase of the lockdown on May 1, it was clearly mentioned that no state or union territory shall curtail the movement of goods to carry out cross border land trade with the neighbouring countries of India under treaties.
In his letter, Bhalla instructed the Chief Secretary of West Bengal to resume the cross border Indo-Bangladesh movement of trucks immediately, along with sending a compliance report about the same.