BALAT (East Khasi Hills) May 1 – Indians and Bangladeshis today put together all their problem solving skills at task to revive a bygone era of mutual trust and friendship at one of the Mughal-era border haat that was reopened here at the Indo-Bangla border.
At the Balat-Dalora border haat, some 95 kms from Shillong, it was a far cry from the early 70s when villagers from both sides engaged in barter trade, before it was closed following break in the relationship between the two neighbouring countries. Today, villagers from both sides tried to figure out the tricky currency exchange rate during sale and purchase of items on the first day of trade.
“I need to return a change of Indian Rs 50, so how much would that be in Bangladeshi Taka,” Md Moksud Ali, a vendor from Konapara on the Bangladeshi side, asked one of the officials of the Joint Border Haat Management Committee (JBHMC.) The official calculated the figure at Taka 78 .56 with Re 1 equalling Taka 1.56 at today’s currency exchange rate.
The minor hitches apart, there was a perceptible air of celebration in this international market of villagers. Villagers from both sides went out of their way to break a decade-old mistrust through their fair trade practices and goodwill.
The Indians, understandably, showed superior purchasing power with the 25 Bangladeshi vendors doing brisk business in all the items they brought, mainly vegetables, clothes and stationery goods. Twenty-five vendors from India on the other hand brought local produces like betel nuts, vegetables and some stationery items and also did good business.
Earlier, P Syiem, local MLA from Mawsynram and Chief Executive Member of Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council together with Manish Chakma, Additional DC, Sunamganj district of Bangladesh formally inaugurated the Balat-Dalora haat.
Syiem said it was a “personal satisfaction” for him today as he tried to revive this historic border haat right from the early 2000 when he was the Syiem (traditional chief) of Hima Bhowal. “I hope that the people would take this opportunity and improve their livelihood. Today is a small beginning, but we want to take this decade-old trade relationship forward.”
Echoing Syiem, Chakma said, that a “new ear has opened.” It is a small, but a good beginning and this would help the villagers in the border areas economically and moreover, cement ties between the people of the two nations.”
The Balat-Dalora border haat, in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district adjacent to Bangladesh’s Sunamganj district, is the second one to be reopened between the two countries in Meghalaya sector. The first border haat was reopened in Kaliachar-Baliamari in West Garo Hills district in Meghalaya, adjoining Bangladesh’s Kurigram district.
Apart from the vendors, the JBHMC allowed 300 Bangladeshis and a 1,000 Indians to market in the haat on the first day. The Indians were allowed one and half hour to do their marketing.