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Arunachal small traders seek resumption of operation in Indo-Myanmar border haat

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NAMPONG, Sept 3: The Covid-19 pandemic came as a bolt from
the blue for Khingwom Mossang and many of her peers as their
source of income from trading activities at Pangsau Pass in
Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, along the India-
Myanmar border, came to a grinding halt in 2020.
Not only Mossang but over 100 small traders have been facing
difficulties after the border trade with Myanmar stopped with
the outbreak of the pandemic.

Two years on, they are still running from pillar to post to
sustain their families and pleading with the government for
early resumption of border trade, which began in 2000.
For 46-year-old Mossang, the sudden halt in trading activities at
Pangsau Pass came as a “shock” as she and her husband are
now facing a tough time running their family.
“We are passing through a hard phase of life. We are finding
difficulties in meeting our day-to-day necessities, including
electricity bills and others. Our income from other activities is
not sufficient,” Mossang said.
She and her husband were engaged in border trade after 2000,
and trading was their only source of income.
They earned an average of Rs 1-1.5 lakh per month.
“We could not even recover our money as we supplied
commodities to the traders of Myanmar on credit,” Mossang,
who used to sell vegetables, grocery items and utensils, said,
while appealing to the government to initiate measures to re-
open border trade.
Tenya Mossang (47), another trader from Nampong, has a
similar story to tell.
“The economic conditions of many families, who were
dependent on the border trade, became worse. They are now

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facing difficulties to survive,” Tenya, who owns a small shop in
Nampong town, said.
“Earlier, I earned an average of Rs 40,000 monthly by selling
cosmetic products and food items through border trade. But
now I am hardly able to earn Rs 5,000 a month, which is not
enough to fulfil the needs of my family,” she added.
Wichak Morang (36) from Theremkan Village near Nampong is
now working as a daily wage earner after the border trade
activities stopped.
“We are now in a very bad condition with no income source.
Whatever I earn from daily work is not sufficient. I hope the
government will soon reopen the border trade keeping in view
the interest of small traders like us,” said Morang, who earlier
managed an earning of Rs 20,000 per month by selling bakery
products and vegetables.
Trade between India and Myanmar had existed before
Independence on a small scale.
The governments of the two countries, on September 26, 1950,
signed an agreement, according to which the indigenous hill
tribes of both sides living within 40 km of the border were
exempted from the requirement of a passport for trade
purposes.

An MoU was signed in 2012 between India and Myanmar for
the establishment of border haats along the international
border at Pangsau Pass to facilitate trade.
Accordingly, both countries established border haats for trading
purposes.
The border trade has been suspended after the outbreak of
Covid-19 in 2020 and since then, it has not been resumed,
Changlang deputy commissioner Sunny Kumar Singh said.
“The competent authority is trying to take up the issue for
reopening of border trade with the Centre and several
communications have been made in this regard. The decision of
the Centre is still awaited,” the DC added.
While a land customs office was established at Nampong way
back in 1950, it is now in a defunct state, trade development
officer Tangli Mossang said.
Sixty-two commodities, including, food items, vegetables,
utensils, cosmetics, 100 cc motorbikes and cement, were
allowed for trade by both the countries which were under tax
exemption, he said.
Locals of Nampong, Jairampur and Manmao subdivisions in the
district claimed that the “Assam Rifles was opposing the
resumption of border trade through Pangsau Pass due to
security reasons”.

An Assam Rifles official, however, denied the allegation.
“Assam Rifles has nothing to do with border trade but its
concern is on the security aspects,” the paramilitary force
official said on condition of anonymity.
Notably, suspected ULFA and NSCN militants had, in August last
year, tried to ambush Assam Rifles troops from across the
Myanmar border at Pangsau Pass, in which a junior officer
sustained injury.
Pangsau Pass border trade was a “good opportunity” for the
state, local legislator Laisam Simai said.
The state administration and the government of Myanmar,
through a mutual understanding, had allowed border trade on
10, 20 and 30th of every month at Pangsau Pass and every
Friday at Nampong, he said.
“All traders, mainly women, actively took part in border haats
and sold items among the 62 permissible commodities. But
when the Covid-19 hit the country, the border trade was
suspended temporarily, for which, our women and small-time
traders are suffering a lot and their economic conditions have
worsened,” the BJP MLA from the Nampong assembly
constituency said.
The suspension of border trade also affected tourism activities
in the region as tourists are not allowed to go to Pangsau Pass.

“By not resuming border trade, we are going against the Act
East Policy,” Simai said.
He also claimed that he had convened several meetings among
the district administration and the town administrative officer
of Pangsau Pass along with Assam Rifles officials where all sides
agreed to resume border trade.
“Even chief minister Pema Khandu had issued an order for
resumption of border trade but there was no response from
Myanmar side. Maybe, it was their internal problem in
governance,” Simai said.
The Arunachal Pradesh governor had recently convened a
meeting with the chief minister and the director general of
Assam Rifles, where the DG assured that they would take up
the matter with the union ministry of home affairs for
resumption of border trade, he said.
“When border trades are going on in various places, why not
here at Pangsau Pass? Security reason is a prime issue we
honour that. There might be a few stray incidents but these can
also be resolved. In this pretext, we cannot compromise with
the economy. We will have to chalk out ways and means and
will need to do something for the people,” Simai added.

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