Border checkpoint sees revenue dry upThe ongoing protests in Darjeeling have started affecting transactions at Pashupatinagar Customs office as both exports and imports handled at this border point have decreased. This has caused customs fees collection to fall sharply.
The ongoing protests in Darjeeling have started affecting transactions at Pashupatinagar Customs office as both exports and imports handled at this border point have decreased. This has caused customs fees collection to fall sharply.
The border point has collected only Rs3.82 million, less than half of its Rs8.44 million target in the first six months of this fiscal year. It will most likely fail to meet its full year target of Rs17.4 million. This border point usually generates up to Rs100 million in custom duties.
The Pashupatinagar Customs Office and its related branches used to subsist on fees collected from vehicles with Indian number plates passing via the checkpoint but even this has dropped. Some branches have even been closed due to the extremely low number of transactions.
Another reason for the decline in collection revenue is the shift by exporters based in hilly districts moving their produce via Kakarbhitta Customs Office instead.
An official at Pashupatinagar Customs Office Chet Nath Khanal said, “Due to ongoing protests in Darjeeling, Indian government has considered this border point a security concern. The Indian government wants to reroute import and export transactions through the Kakarbhitta Customs Office instead.”
A local resident, Milan Chettri said, “In recent years, even the lure of tourism has receded. If the Customs Office observes sufficient transactions, residents of Pashupatinagar and hilly districts, including Ilam, will benefit.”
Pramod Rai, chairman of Federation of Chamber of Commerce Pashupatinagar said, “Along with the reduction in customs transactions, the hustle and bustle around the town has also receded.”
Locals reiterated that this border point should be more effective due to similar climate, culture, lifestyle and language in both sides of the border. Even during the blockade imposed by India, the border point was largely unaffected.
According to locals, the installation of a Sashastra Seema Bal camp near the border point has also negatively affected the area as only limited items such as rice and lentils are allowed as imports while green products, ghee and hard cheese are allowed as exports.
Efforts to promote tourism in this district through this border point have proved to be futile. The Indian side points to lack of space for constructing buildings. Customs are handled at the Indian side at Sukhiya, seven kilometres away from the border.