Saturday, August 23, 2014

Officials to visit Sherathang and take stock of infrastructure

GANGTOK, 22 Aug: A team of officials from the concerned departments will be visiting Sherathang, the trade mart for border trade with China through Nathula, as soon as the 17 Mile slide on JN Marg has been cleared. The purpose of the visit, as informed by the DC East, is to get a status report on the infrastructure ready and available for use at the trade mart.
Trade has come to a halt but there are divergent opinions as to the actual reason. While Customs Department officials say they are unable to visit the trade mart as there is no accommodation available for them, the state officials still contend that it is the landslides at JN Marg which is the reason for the suspension of trade. The longer route [via Rongli] which needs to be taken now to reach Sherathang makes daily drives impractical, and in the absence of arrangements for overnight stay, Customs officials have not be going up ever since 17 Mile collapsed. [read NOW! dated 22 August 2014 for details]
It is important, in this context, to recall that some years ago, nearly the entire trading season was kept alive via the alternate route from Rongli when JN Road was totally shut down.
Meanwhile, returning to the matter at hand, the DC-East, who is also the chairperson of the Sherathang Development Agency, claims that infrastructure, particularly the accommodation for Customs Department, has still to be fitted with water and electricity lines. This update, he informs, was forwarded to him by the Industries Department and is the official reason for not handing over the particular building housing the accommodation to Customs.
Apparently, there seems to be a significant communication gap here among the different agencies. Custom officials, while talking to NOW! earlier, informed that the building was ready and that they had written thrice to Industries department for handing it over to them but got no response.
Similarly, traders as well claim that the structure is ready and when they had approached the department, they were told that it was the DC, East who would do the necessary handing over formalities. In fact, it is not just the accommodation building for Customs, other infrastructure such as parking yard, cafeteria, shopping complex have been constructed and need to be handed over to user agencies in order to facilitate the trade.
So, while the state officials seem keen to rest their case on the road block at JN Marg for trade suspension, the question is that should JN Marg not reopen for weeks, will trade remain suspended as well? Traders seem willing to take the longer Rongli route as they did a couple of years ago, but that is of no use if the Customs officials are not on their post there. However in the event that the road is reopened by the BRO it is informed that DC, East along with concerned officials plan to visit the trade mart to take stock of the infrastructure and work out the ‘handing over’ part of it.

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