By Sumi Khan
Dhaka, Oct 19 (IANS) After the reopening of online visa application services for Bangladeshis, India has moved to resume flights connecting the two closest neighbour countries from October 28 under a bilateral "air bubble" arrangement amid the coronavirus pandemic.
India had suspended the flights nearly eight months ago when the virus outbreak began to spread.
The flights will connect five Indian cities with Dhaka, the Indian High Commission in Dhaka tweeted on Saturday.
Initially, around 5,000 passengers from both the countries would be able to fly each week, the report quoted Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice Marshal M. Mafidur Rahman said on Sunday.
There is no transit facility for the passengers to fly to a third country, he said, adding that the passengers would have to undergo Covid-19 testing before flying.
On October 9, the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh announced resumption of online visa application services for Bangladeshi citizens.
For now, visas will be provided in nine categories, including medical, business, employment, journalists and diplomats.
Three airlines from Bangladesh will operate 28 flights a week initially, while five Indian airlines will operate the same number of flights, the Bangladesh foreign ministry said on Facebook.
The Bangladeshi airlines are Biman Bangladesh Airlines, US-Bangla Airlines, and NOVOAIR, while the Indian airlines are Air India, Vistara, IndiGo, SpiceJet, and GoAir.
Biman is scheduled to operate flights on Dhaka-Delhi-Dhaka and Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka routes, US-Bangla Airlines on Dhaka-Chennai and NOVOAIR on the Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka route.
The Indian airlines will operate flights on Dhaka-Delhi-Dhaka, Dhaka-Kolkata-Dhaka, Dhaka-Chennai-Dhaka, and Dhaka-Mumbai-Dhaka routes.
It had also suspended visas in March and resumed the online application services for Bangladeshis last week.
The suspensions spelt trouble for many Bangladeshis who needed to travel to India, especially to get medical attention.
In normal days, more than 3,500 Bangladeshis travel to India daily on an average. Over 10 per cent of them travel on medical purposes.
Of the foreigners who visit India for medical purposes, 45 per cent are from Bangladesh, according to the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
More than 13.7 million foreigners took treatment in India between January 2018 and March 2019. They include 2.8 million Bangladeshis.
After arriving in Dhaka earlier in October, Indian High Commissioner Vikram Kumar Doraiswami said India was committed to deliver on a special "air bubble" arrangement to resume aviation "very soon" as promised by Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla during his Dhaka visit in August.
New Delhi, Oct 21 (IANS) As e-commerce platforms and online channels raked in the moolah during the seven-day festive sales that began on October 15, offline retailers in India are still struggling to find footfall in the pandemic times, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said on Wednesday.
According to Praveen Khandelwal, Secretary General, CAIT, footfall in retail stores is at mere 30 per cent on average in the country.
"We expect retail sales to rise after Dussehra and before Diwali," Khandelwal told IANS.
"The e-commerce companies continue to violate laws and the ongoing festive sales with deep discounting is another such violation," he added.
The CAIT, which represents around seven crore traders and about 40,000 trade associations, said last month that about 25 per cent small shops and businesses, totalling 1.75 crore, across the country were on the verge of closure amid the pandemic.
Noting that the Indian domestic trade consists of more than 7 crore traders providing employment to more than 40 crore people, CAIT said that the banking sector has so far failed to provide formal finance to this sector since only 7 per cent of the small businesses are able to obtain finance from banks and other financial institutions.
The rest of the 93 per cent traders are dependent upon informal sources to meet their financial requirements, it said.
The CAIT has called upon the government to roll out the e-commerce policy at the earliest to curb "malpractices" of large e-commerce players in India.
"In coming days, we will again approach the government over the violation of norms by the e-commerce giants, which will also include the festival sales," Khandelwal told IANS on Wednesday.
"We expect things to sort out once the e-commerce policy is brought in".
According to Bengaluru-based market research firm RedSeer, $3.1 billion (about Rs 22,000 crore) of goods were sold online from brands and sellers in the first four-and-a-half days of the online festive sale event.
The seven-day festive sale is likely to witness over $4.8 billion (nearly Rs 35,273 crore) in sales.
CAIT said that traders are under financial obligation for payment of central and state government taxes, repayment of monthly installments of loans taken from formal and informal sources, EMIs, water and electricity bills, property tax, payment of interest, payment of wages to the labour and various other payments.