The Kasba Border Haat in Brahmanbaria, jointly funded by the governments of Bangladesh and India, has been closed for more than two years, piling losses on the traders with no end to their troubles in sight.
The haat management committee of the two neighbouring countries announced its closure for an indefinite period from 10 March 2020 when the outbreak of Covid-19 started in the country.
As the Covid situation has normalised now, traders have demanded the haat authorities open the market but no decision has been taken in this regard yet.
Located on the border of Kamalasagar in Sipahijala district of Tripura state of India and Tarapur of Kasba upazila of Brahmanbaria, the market started its journey in June 2015 for the convenience of the residents of the border areas of India and Bangladesh.
Traders said that before the closure, Bangladeshi traders used to sell goods worth at least Tk10,000-20,000 on a haat day while Indian businessmen used to sell products worth Tk50,000-Tk1 lakh.
Liton Karmakar, a Bangladeshi businessman in the border market, said he used to sell various household products in the haat. He bought goods worth Tk2 lakh before the market was closed. Later, he had to sell some products at a lower price in the local market but he still had several products unsold.
In addition, the two workers who used to work in his shop are now unemployed due to the closure of the market. He said that the market management committee did not provide any help to the traders.
Another businessman Waliullah Sarker said he bought winter clothes worth Tk1.5 lakh. He could not sell those as the haat was closed. He could not even sell those at local markets.
"Many traders like me are suffering financially due to the market being closed for a long time. Now everything is running normally, so the border market should open as soon as possible," he said.
There are 100 shops in the market, 50 each in the two countries. The market used to run every Sunday from 10am to 4pm. And, 1,000 people who live within five kilometres of the borders are given tickets to enter the market.
Among the Indian products, cosmetics, sarees, three-pieces and baby diapers were in high demand while clothes, plastic, iron products and crockery items were the most-sold Bangladeshi products.
According to the Kasba border haat authorities, Bangladeshi products worth Tk26.98 lakh were sold in December 2019. In January and February 2020, products worth Tk37.72 lakh and Tk20.77 lakh were sold.
Kasba Upazila Nirbahi Officer and Border Haat Management Committee member Masud Ul Alam told The Business Standard, "This is a bilateral issue. So far we have not been told anything specific about the opening of the market. However, India's border haat managing committee is interested in opening the market. If the governments of the two countries decide to open the haat, we will open it by carrying out the necessary renovation work."