Vehicles queue to enter the Indian Integrated Check Post in Raxaul next to the border. Photo: Ritesh Tripathi/Republica
BIRGUNJ, June 21: The Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Birgunj whose operation kick-started after being formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli and his Indian counterpart Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has not been as effective as expected for Nepal. Importers claim that the transportation of goods through the ICP has been inefficient and costlier than before.
Although the replica infrastructures were constructed in both sides of the Nepal-India border so as to ease and advance trade and customs, the experience importers have faced transporting goods through the ICP is far from what was expected.
Om Prakash Sharma, president of Birgunj Chamber of Commerce stated: “The ICP has created more problems and the entry process of vehicles is very slow. As a result, containers are lined up for up to 25 kilometers.” He added, “Besides, the Indian security forces are not well-behaved. Entering the ICP, which was built to strengthen mutual trade relations, gives people the feeling as if they are entering an army camp and drivers are thus not willing to enter the ICP.
Extortion of funds by Indian security forces is prevalent and at an increasing trend outside the ICP. Those who do not give the demanded money have to wait for an entire week and have also faced manhandling by the security forces outside the ICP. However those who pay between IRs 500 to IRs 1,000 per vehicle, are easily allowed to enter the ICP.
“The condition here is very bad. The previous border checkpoint was much better. Now I am never coming back,” said an Indian truck driver from Bhagalpur. A tanker driver carrying fuel was mistreated and beaten up by the Indian security forces and this conflict had to be resolved through an all-party meeting.
“The ICP was expected to be a relief among Nepali importers. They were very excited when the facility was inaugurated, but now they have been disheartened,” Sharma told Republica.
Role of Indian customs
Indian Customs Officials do not seem to be supportive of ICP operation. When the customs office was in the main border point, they had to collude with smugglers to allow illegal transportation of goods. Goods such as black pepper are restricted for import from third countries into India, so smugglers try to transport it via Nepal.
Indian customs officers are trying their best to obstruct the operation of the ICP, according to importers.
“The functioning of the ICP at the entry point has been made very inefficient,” according industrialist Ashok Kumar Vaidhya. “Due to the delay caused by flaws in the ICP’s proper management, importers have to pay additional delay fees.” He said that this was something the government must look into and investigate.