Travel sector revenues decreased by about Tk 26.75 crore in 2021 through Benapole Land Port as the Omicron surge had reduced passenger traffic between Bangladesh and India.
In 2021, only 1,63,974 went to India through Benapole whereas 6,99,107 people traveled to India in 2020. As a result, the passenger traffic on this route has decreased by 5,35, 133 passengers in 2021 as compared to 2020.
About 18 to 20 lakh passengers travel to India every year on medical, business, education and travel visas through Benapole International Checkpost due to the ease of communication.
Md Raju, officer-in-charge of Benapole Immigration, said 8,000 to 10,000 passengers used to travel through this route every day before the pandemic. Currently, passenger traffic has been reduced due to restrictions.
The Covid Negative Certificate through the RT-PCR test within 72 hours is needed for returning to and from India.
The government earns about Tk 6,000 crore from the trade sector while the government's revenue from the travel sector is about Tk 100 crore.
On March 13, 2020, India imposed restrictions on travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic and suspended trade through land ports on March 26. However, it allowed domestic flights from May, 2020, and the entry of foreigners except tourists from October.
Later, when the situation became somewhat normal, after four months, the ban on trade through Benapole port was lifted and trade gradually became normal. But, travel on tourist visas is still closed.
Ayub Hossain, a passenger returning to India, said, "We cannot rely on medical services. Most physicians cannot diagnose the disease."
If the medical system improves in the country, they would not have to go to India risking their lives during the covid pandemic. As a result, the country's money would remain in the country, he said.
Passengers coming from India on business visas said that they are applying for visas by road but they are getting visas by air at present. Again, those who have road visas before are also being barred from traveling by Indian immigration on various pretexts.
"Although it is very urgent, I cannot go to India as I need," the passenger added.
Benapole Immigration's Health Department Monitoring Officer Dr Mejbaul Hasan said the India returnees were being tested for rapid antigen to prevent covid infection.
In the last two months, after testing the samples of 140 people, nine people have tested positive.
The infected were tested positive in India. The covid patients were kept in the red zone of Corona Unit of Jashore Sadar Hospital, the officer added.
Abdul Jalil, deputy director (Traffic) of Benapole Port, said the import-export between the two countries is slowly getting stable amid this pandemic. However, due to the ban on travel, passenger traffic has decreased.