The Indian cabinet today approved two separate agreements, to be signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka next week, to fight human trafficking and introduce coastal shipping service with Bangladesh. The Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, approved the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on prevention of human trafficking especially trafficking in women and children.
“Human trafficking has emerged as a big problem. The MoU is an effort in the direction of preventing trafficking,” Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after the cabinet meeting. An official statement said the MoU will help strengthen cooperation to prevent all forms of the human trafficking, especially that of women and children and ensure speedy investigation and prosecution of traffickers and organised crime syndicates in both the neighbouring nations.
The pact will also ensure repatriation of victims as expeditiously as possible. After repatriation, the home country will undertake the safe and effective reintegration of the victims with their families, the statement said. A task force of India and Bangladesh was constituted to take coordinated action against individuals, touts and agents involved in human trafficking and meetings of the group. The task force has met four times so far.
During the fourth meeting of the Task Force held in Mumbai on April 6 and 7 last year, both sides finalised the text of the draft MoU on prevention of human trafficking, the statement pointed out. The Cabinet also cleared the agreement on coastal shipping between India and Bangladesh for movement of goods between the two countries. Indian ports serving as trans-shipment points for Bangladeshi cargo will benefit by greater volume as a result of Indo-Bangladesh coastal trade, the statement said, adding that both the nations shall treat each other’s vessels as it would have done to its national vessels used in international sea transportation.
“Exim trade between India and Bangladesh would be benefited by way of reduction in freight charges. It will also improve the utilisation of port capacities of Indian ports and open up new opportunity for Indian coastal vessels. It will also help in decongestion of roads especially at land custom stations/integrated check posts at the Indo-Bangladesh border,” the statement said. Currently, there is no significant cargo movement between the sea ports of Bangladesh and India as it is not profitable for the big ocean going vessels to operate between the ports of the two countries.
Therefore, to reduce the cost of shipping operations, a lower but pragmatic standard of vessel known as River Sea Vessel (RSV) has been prescribed for coastal shipping. The RSV category has significantly lower construction and operation costs without compromising on safety. For Indo-Bangladesh coastal shipping, the RSV category of vessel has been agreed upon by both the countries. India’s trade with Bangladesh has grown rapidly during the past few years. Bangladesh is now India’s largest trade partner in South Asia.
The opening up of the coastal route between India and Bangladesh is expected to provide an alternative route for the transportation of Exim cargo between the two countries.