Agartala: India's second international-standard multi-purpose Integrated Check Post (ICP) and the first along the Bangladesh border opened on Sunday to people at Akhaurah, near Agartala.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde inaugurated the check post, built at a cost of Rs.74 crore, in the presence of Bangladesh Home Minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir and senior officials of the two countries.
The first international standard ICP was inaugurated in Attari in Punjab along the Pakistan border by then union home minister P. Chidambaram (now union finance minister) in April 2012.
"The multi-use ICPs would boost trade and economy between India's northeastern states and Bangladesh and make available various facilities among the trans-border passengers and traders," an official of the Land Ports Authority of India (LPAI) told IANS.
"Trade between India and Pakistan through ICP at Attari increased a lot after it was opened 18 months ago," he said.
"Trade and movement of people between Bangladesh and northeastern states are increasing every year and this would further increase by opening of the Akhaurah ICP. This is the first of its kind along the Bangladesh border," the official said.
The Akhaurah land customs station deals with around 4,500 people every month travelling between the two countries.
On an average 150 to 200 visas were issued per day earlier this year, but now it has come down to around 70 to 100 per day due to political turmoil in Bangladesh.
Akhaurah land customs station (LCS) is the second biggest land port along the Bangladesh border after the Petrapole-Benapole check post in West Bengal. It is one of the most important international trading land ports in eastern India, with an average of 200 Bangladeshi trucks loaded with goods entering Tripura every day.
The two-day ninth meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Group of Customs, which was held in Dhaka October 21-22, agreed to keep the LCSs at Petrapole-Benapole and Akhaurah (close to Agartala city) operational for seven days a week from January 2014.
"In the first phase, seven ICPs are being set up at Raxaul and Jogbani (in Bihar) along the Nepal border, Attari (in Punjab) along the Pakistan border, Moreh (Manipur) along the border with Myanmar and Akhaurah (in Tripura), Dawki (in Meghalaya) and Petrapole (in West Bengal) along the border with Bangladesh," said an official report.
"The ICPs are being commissioned to secure India's borders against interests hostile to the country and to put in place systems to interdict such elements while facilitating legitimate trade and commerce as a part of an overall strategy for improved border management," the report said.
The ICPs, being built at expenditures ranging from Rs.35 crore to Rs.170 crore - with a total outlay of Rs.635 crore - would be sanitised zones with dedicated passenger and cargo terminals and space for regulatory agencies besides necessary modern facilities under one roof.
"The setting up of 13 ICPs along India's international border is a major initiative which the Centre has undertaken as part of a scheme envisaged during the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12) at a cost of Rs.635 crore," the home ministry report added.
Customs and immigration facilities, weigh bridges, security and scanning equipment, currency exchange booths, internet facility, cargo process building, cargo inspection sheds, warehouse and cold storage, health and quarantine facilities, clearing agents, banks, scanners, closed circuit televisions, public address systems, isolation bay, parking, cafeteria, hotels and other public utilities would also be available.
India shares a 4,096-km border with Bangladesh, 3,323 km with Pakistan, 1,751 km with Nepal and 1,643 km with Myanmar.
Like the Airports Authority of India, the central government had set up the LPAI in 2010 to supervise construction work, maintenance and control of the ICPs.