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Bhutan traders come calling once again

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For people like Tshering, a trader from Bhutan, a decline in insurgency and gradual improvement in law and order in the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) has been a boon.

Small-scale trade between India and Bhutan, especially in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts, had been hit sharply during the height of the Bodo movement in the 1990s and subsequent armed agitations by various rebel groups.

Though the formation of Bodoland Territorial Council in 2003 paved the way for peace, people from Bhutan were still apprehensive to travel through the BTAD until recent years.

Bhutanese traders used to come to Bodo villages in Kokrajhar and Chirang to procure eri silk and silk cocoons, at the same time selling oranges, winter garments and various agricultural produces.

Last winter, the Bhutanese traders did brisk business at picnic spots like Khanamakra-Kalamati, Kwila-Mwila, Datgiri-Hatisar, Saralpara, Jomduar Darangajuli, Bogamati and Lakhibazar along the international border in Chirang, Kokrajhar and Baksa districts. They sold large quantities of oranges, wine, beer and milk products there.

Though road conditions were deplorable, Bhutanese traders, like in the days of yore, used mules and horses to ferry their products.

Tshering said he was happy to do business during the picnic season here. Like Tshering, 10 other Bhutanese traders have been coming to the Kalamati area during picnic season for the last few years.

Though vehicles from Bhutan are provided security cover by the Indian security forces once they enter Indian territory, small traders like Tshering are confident that law and order in the BTAD will improve and such security cover won’t be needed in future.

In an apparent demonstration of confidence on the improving situation in BTAD, the traders even spent nights on roadside makeshift camps during their stay in popular picnic spots.

A woman trader from Gelephu in Bhutan was at Kalamati recently. She said they are no longer afraid of spending nights on the roadside while on their way to Gelephu. “Gelephu is 50 km from Kalamati. As the road to our village is in bad shape, we walk up to our home, spending nights on the way,” she said.

Courtesy: Times of India

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