The Commerce Ministry has been focusing on enhancing trade at the border in the northeast. BJP’s strategists believe the move would help the party reap political mileage in the region.
The Modi government’s focus has already started showing results — there has been a 312.64 per cent increase in trade through Nathu-La, trade has doubled at the Myanmar border, and new border haats have been opened in Tripura and Meghalaya. Last week’s victory in Assam — where the BJP is all set to form the government after winning a clear majority — is expected to give further momentum to the central government’s “development activities” in the region.
The politics of the northeast, where the RSS was active for long, had so far been dominated either by the Congress or small regional parties. The BJP, which considers its win in Assam as a gateway to the northeast, now sees its prospects brightening.
“The region’s seven states, barring Tripura and Meghalaya, are favourable towards the BJP. The Congress has lost the ground in many states,” a BJP leader said, adding that the Prime Minister’s direction that two Union ministers visit each state every month had started showing results.
“There is goodwill among the states for the Prime Minister and the party. Besides, northeastern states would like to be friendly with the Centre,” a Union minister said.
According to an official in the Commerce Ministry, the most successful move was boosting trade at Nathu-La, where the government simplified procedures and set up facilities for trading of specified items at a common station — One Land Custom Station (LCS).
During 2014-15, there was an increase of 93.74 per cent in total trade through Nathu-La. The growth shot up to 312.64 per cent in 2015-16.
There are two LCS at the Myanmar border — Moreh and Zokhawtar. Myanmar border trade — which was earlier mostly barter — has gone up from Rs 4.16 crore in 2010-11 to Rs 157.95 crore in 2014-15.
The Commerce Ministry is also upbeat about the response to the border haats, Four border haats are now operational on a weekly basis on the India-Bangladesh border in Kalaichar and Balat in Meghalaya and Kamalsagar and Srinagar in Tripura. The latter two were inaugurated after the Modi government came into power.
Located at the zero line, the haats allow commodities to be exchanged in local currency or on barter basis. Each person is allowed to purchase an amount of commodities that is reasonable for bona-fide personal or family consumption and its value should not be more than $100. The items traded include food, local forest produce, cottage industry products, small agriculture implements, garments and aluminium products.
The official said the success of the haats had prompted the respective governments to agree to opening two more haats in Tripura and four more in Meghalaya soon.