Tribal chiefs in Meghalaya on Wednesday sought the Centre's intervention to convince Bangladesh for early opening of at least 38 border haats south of the state which have proved to be beneficial to residents of the area.
"We have urged the state government to take up the matter with the Centre for negotiation with Bangladesh government to speed up the opening of at least 38 border haats," Grand Council of Chiefs of Meghalaya (GCCM) Chairman John F Kharshiing told reporters here after a meeting.
These haats have a direct impact on the livelihood of the border residents, he said.
Only two border haats – at Kalaichar in West Garo Hills and at Balat in East Khasi Hills district - are open now and more than 20,000 residents were benefited directly and generated income worth more than Rs 50 lakh.
The tribal leader demanded 38 more border haats -- 17 in East Khasi hills district, 11 in South West Khasi Hills district, four in South Garo hills, three each in West Garo hills and Jaintia hills districts.
"The Khasi-Jaintia and Garo people inhabiting the entire stretch of 443km long Indo-Bangladesh border have been victims of partition, not only was the international border closed but they have been denied their traditional market and route towards Sylhet and Chittagong," he said.
Urging the government to improve the infrastructure, particularly bridges, along the border, Kharshiing said these infrastructure development work would enable movement along the border as hostile terrain was a serious challenge.
Meghalaya government had officially pressed for opening of six more border haats.
Bangladesh and India have agreed to set up a number of border haats, which, if opened, are expected to witness bilateral trade worth US $20 million every year, the Union Commerce Ministry had said earlier.