The new online trade management system -- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) -- has been suspended as it was hindering India's trade with Bangladesh in the northeast region due to technical issues and lack of familiarity among the concerned stakeholders, officials said on Tuesday.
"Due to technical issues being faced for implementation of EDI, it has been decided to defer the roll-out of EDI and the new date of implementations would be intimated in due course," a customs official quoted Sikkim-headquartered Commissioner of Customs, K. Ashi Khieya, as saying.
In the EDI system, submission of trade-related documents and papers and payment of various duties have to be made online using the digital system.
"The EDI was introduced on August 5 in six border trade centres in the northeastern states along the India-Bangladesh and India-Myanmar borders to improve efficiency, ensure transparency and for online payments of trade between the countries," the customs official said on condition of anonymity.
Haradhan Roy, a spokesman of Indian exporters, told the media here: "Both the customs officials and the traders are completely unfamiliar with the new system, causing ineffective operation of the EDI system. Before introduction of the new system, the concerned stakeholders must be trained."
He said they have told the customs officials about their unfamiliarity with the new digital system and the consequent effect on exports and imports.
The six India-Bangladesh trading locations include Karimganj Steamerghat and Ferry Stations Land Customs Stations (LCSs) in Assam, Muhurighat, Srimantapur, Agartala LCSs in Tripura and Moreh LCS in Manipur.
Traders at the Agartala-Akhaura checkpost said that on account of the introduction of the new system trade between India and Bangladesh has come to a halt since August 5.
Roy said that cross-border trade through many LCSs in the northeastern states, including the Agartala-Akhaura Integrated Checkpost (ICP), has been halted.
Traders at the Agartala-Akhaura checkpost and other LCS said they are completely unfamiliar with the EDI system, causing stoppage of border trade.
The second-largest trading point between India and Bangladesh after Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh) along the West Bengal border, the Agartala-Akhaura checkpost is doing an average annual trade of around Rs 350 crore.
"The EDI has been introduced in the northeastern states, and we are hopeful that the current glitches would be resolved soon. The slow network of BSNL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd) and private operators is also making the EDI operation ineffective," a customs official said.
Local newspapers and several reports in the Bangladesh media said that around a hundred trucks loaded with goods have been stranded on the Bangladesh side due to these technical issues.
The price of fish in the Tripura markets is zooming due to the stoppage of imports of fish from Bangladesh during the past fortnight.
There are a total 39 LCS in the seven northeastern states. Of these, 32 LCS are on the India-Bangladesh border, three on the India-Myanmar border and four are located on the India-Bhutan border.