KATHMANDU: Walking through the narrow Jogbani Main Road in Bihar, which connects the Biratnagar border gate of Nepal with NH 57, is an experience. Even pedestrians are caught in a jam here.
Biratnagar is home to nearly 400 manufacturing units and is the second largest industrial hub in Nepal after Birgunj.
To ensure smooth movement of the cargo, the Nepalese government has invested in infrastructure, building roads, a walled customs quarantine zone and truck bays.
But the moment you cross over to the Indian side, the mayhem begins.
Cargo-laden trucks struggle to move through a bustling marketplace. There is no centralised cargo quarantine area. And, customs officials work from a dusty roadside kiosk.
Jogbani is not an isolated case on the 1,751-km-long boundary between India and landlocked Nepal, which does trade worth $4.2 billion with India and routes another $3 billion in third-country trade through India, offering the country’s logistics sector a handsome revenue opportunity.
A visit to the border gates makes one question India’s attitude to this huge trade potential.
Raxaul, which handles 70 per cent of the total traffic, has no roads. The 50-km stretch of NH28A from Motihari to Raxaul is simply not motorable.
Panitanki in West Bengal has good roads but the customs superintendent sits in a temporary shed on the wayside. As per a four-nation agreement, Nepal is scheduled to trade seamlessly through this gate with Bhutan and Bangladesh through India.