Border haats remain closed in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic

06 November 2021

The closure of a border haat at no-man's land along the Jinjiram River at Baliamari Char of Rajibpur upazila in Kurigram district has impacted the livelihoods of more than one hundred families in the area. The border haat provided various ways to earn a living for locals but that has since come to an end following its closure in March 2020, when the government implemented a slew of restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19. Ever since the haat opened, the people of Baliamari char looked to it as an additional source of income but over time, it became a primary earning source for most families in the area. Day labourers, fishermen and almost everyone else of Baliamari char depended on the haat to sustain their livelihoods.
Bangladesh and India jointly launched Border Haats in 2011 along the borders of Kurigram district in Bangladesh and West Garo Hill district in the Indian state of Meghalaya. Since then, three more border haats have been opened by the two nations in order to enable their residents in remote border areas to engage in trade. In addition to the four existing border haats, both countries are preparing to open six more such haats, three of which are ready to open. The border haats that were closed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic are yet to be reopened. The haat in Baliamari char would sit two days a week, when buyers and sellers from both countries would do trading in garments, agro-products, and handicrafts.
And through the trade of goods and subsequent rise of relevant businesses, such as those that transport the goods or carry passengers across Jinjiram river, this border haat became a vital source of income for locals. The haat will remain closed until the two countries come to a decision on the matter but in the meantime, hundreds of families in the area are sitting idle at home. The local administration should provide alternative livelihood opportunities for the locals till the border haat reopens.

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