December 4, 2023

Business Visa

The Business Visa Is Mightier Than Sword

Kolkata markets witness a sharp visitors drop as tourist visa to Bangladeshi’s taking 90 days | Kolkata News

KOLKATA: Kolkata’s mini-Bangladesh, the zone around New Market hemmed by Marquis Street, Free School Street, Kyd Street and Sudder Street, has witnessed a sharp drop in the number of visitors from the neighbouring country this summer, dealing a body blow to the local economy. The lean business ahead of the festival season has prompted several local trade bodies to write to the Centre, urging it to ease visa restrictions for Bangladeshi tourists.
According to Bangladeshi citizens, a tourist visa to India is now taking up to 90 days to get processed – instead of the fortnight it took earlier – and is turning out to be a major dampener.
Ayesha Amir, wife of a Dhaka-based banker who has visited Kolkata several times in the past, had applied online for a visa in July but got an appointment on Tuesday with the Indian high commission in Dhaka. “I have never seen such delay in visa-processing,” she told TOI from Dhaka.
Local trade bodies say on an average 6,000 Bangladeshi citizens reach Kolkata daily and during the peak winter season the number exceeds 15,000 per day. But now, the daily count has dipped to just 2,000-3,000 tourists.
“Since August our businesses have hit all-time lows due to the poor turnout of Bangladeshi tourists,” said Md Saif Shamim, joint secretary of Free School Street Traders Association (FSSTA), which has more than 500 hotel owners and traders from Marquis Street, Free School Street, Kyd Street and Sudder Street as members. The trade body, which held a meeting last week, has written to the Centre flagging the visa delay.
Monotosh Kumar Saha, the FSSTA president who also operates the Shohagh Paribahan buses between Kolkata and Dhaka, said in the past fortnight the number of passengers per bus had dwindled to around 12 to 14 though each bus has a capacity of 45 seats.
‘Tourist flow dip after Padma Setu inauguration’
Abani Kumar Ghosh, proprietor of Shyamoli Yatri Paribahan, which also operates on the Kolkata-Dhaka route, said their 45-seater buses were now getting less than half the number of passengers. “It is becoming financially unviable to run the service,” he said.
Utpal Roy, a human rights activist who has also written to the Centre on the visa delay said, “It is taking nothing less than 90 days to get an Indian visa and the appointment time is at least 45 days after the online application.”
Though efforts were made to reach the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, he could not be contacted and the mail sent to the high commission remained unanswered. Bangladesh deputy high commission officials refused to comment saying it was an internal matter of India government.
“It was expected that after the inauguration of Padma Setu there will be an influx of tourists to Kolkata, but in reality this has not happened,” said Bikash Kumar Yadav, who has been working as a manager at a leading restaurant on Marquis Street for the past decade.
Shamim, an FSSTA office-bearer, said Bangladeshis were now bypassing Kolkata, once a very popular tourist and shopping destination, and travelling to other parts of Asia like Thailand, Singapore and Dubai.
Some businessmen, however, are hopeful of business picking up next month. “The ICC World Cup in Eden Gardens during October where the Bangladesh cricket team will play will definitely raise the number of tourists,” added Ghosh, the Shyamoli Paribahan owner.