Passengers to and from India at the Benapole land port in Jashore almost quadrupled to record 21,29,693 in FY23, compared to 5,58,598 in FY22, generating revenue of approximately Tk100 crore, thanks to the Padma Bridge that opened last year and cut the Dhaka-Benapole distance subsequently.
Of the 21,29,693 passport holders who travelled between Bangladesh and India through Benapole port last fiscal year, 10,80,684 were outbound travellers and 10,49,008 were returnees, said Abdul Jalil, acting director of the port.
Shafayet Hossain, joint commissioner of Benapole Customs House, said, "Padma Bridge has made communication easier than before. Passengers are now coming to Benapole checkpost more to save time and money. This has increased the revenue earnings of the government as well. Around Tk100 crore of revenue was generated from the travel tax collected at the port last year."
Every day, many people cross Benapole checkpost to travel to various Indian cities, including Kolkata, for various purposes, including treatment, tour, study, business, and to meet relatives in the neighbouring country.
Aminul Haque, vice president of the Benapole Export-Import Association, said, "After the opening of the Padma Bridge, the distance from Dhaka to Benapole port has been reduced by 71km. This not only eased trade but also reduced the suffering of passengers travelling between India and Bangladesh."
"Now Benapole can be reached in just four and a half hours from Dhaka. Travellers who earlier used other ports or air routes, are now coming to Benapole to save money and for transportation facilities," he added.
However, many passengers complained that the land port is struggling with a lack of adequate structure, causing woes for a growing number of travellers.
Jasmine, an India returnee at the Benapole port, said, "Padma Bridge has eased travel. But the old woes at the Benapole port are still in place. Passengers' safety and facilities should be enhanced at the port."
An India-bound traveller, Zahidul Kabir complained that the service at the port is not at the desired level and passengers have to stand on the road for hours as there is no waiting shed.
He called for revising the current travel tax at the port, which was fixed at Tk1,000 for adults, and Tk500 for minors aged less than 12 in the FY24 budget and came into effect on 1 July.
Ahsan Habib, officer-in-charge of Benapole Immigration Police, said that they are committed to providing all-out assistance to the passengers at the immigration, which is why the number of passengers travelling to India is increasing every year.