After two years, India lifted restrictions on cross-border travel to and from Bangladesh on Tuesday, though the country reopened its air routes earlier.
Bangladesh lifted restrictions on cross-border travel to and from India on 16 September last year as Covid-19 scenario in the country and the region improved.
Allowing the tourists to enter into India by road would decrease the pressure on air routes, said industry insiders.
Currently travellers can move through all the land ports, except Darshana, said sources at the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh.
At least 70 Bangladeshis went to India through the Benapole land port till 12 pm Thursday, said the port authority.
Raju Ahmed, officer-in-charge of Benapole immigration check post, said, "Passenger traffic has increased due to lifting cross-border travel restrictions. Currently, only the travellers with new tourist visas can visit India. Travel on the old tourist visa is currently closed."
Bangladeshi passengers who have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine can enter into India by showing a Covid-19 negative certificate. They would not need such a certificate when they return to Bangladesh, said Raju Ahmed, reports our Jashore correspondent.
"However, Indian passengers who received two doses of vaccine do not need a Covid-19 negative certificate to move between Bangladesh and India," he added.
According to an Indian media outlet, the number of passengers passing through the India-Bangladesh border on tourist visas is around 10 lakh per year. The Indian embassy collects around Tk100 crore in visa fees from the passengers, while the revenue of Bangladesh government from travel tax is about Tk50 crore.
After the first Covid-19 infection was reported in Bangladesh on 8 March 2020, India closed its border on 13 March and imposed a travel ban.
India restarted issuing visas for Bangladeshi tourists from 15 November 2021, but they had to travel by air.
As a result, there was a huge pressure on air routes. Passengers were having a hard time buying plane tickets and many could not even go to India. These passengers will benefit from resuming the cross-border travel.
Pressure on air routes to decrease
Currently, US-Bangla Airlines, NovoAir and Biman Bangladesh are operating flights from Bangladesh to India.
Md Kamrul Islam, general manager (public relations), of US-Bangla Airlines, said they had been operating two flights per week since 28 October 2020 under the air bubble arrangement between Bangladesh and India.
On 27 March this year, the airline started operating two flights daily to and from India.
"There was a huge demand from the Bangladeshi travellers to go to India, especially for medical purposes since we started operating the flights. Issuing tourist visas put more pressure on the Airlines," he said, adding that the pressure would decrease soon as India started issuing visas allowing travel by road from 30 March this year.
Mesbah-Ul-Islam, head of marketing at Novoair, also told TBS that the demand for air ticket for traveling to India would decrease as the restrictions on cross-border is lifted.
"Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Dhaka-Kolkata ticket price was unusually low. Currently, it sells for a slightly higher price," he said.
Railway transport to resume soon
Aside from road travel, train movement between India and Bangladesh has remained halted for over two years.
Dhaka and Delhi decided to resume Maitri Express and Bandhan Express services by the end of March this year, but that has been postponed. However, the officials concerned expressed their hope to reopen the rail transport within this month.
Shariful Islam, senior information officer of railway ministry told TBS, "The decision about the reopening date of railway transport between two countries is yet to be finalised."