Rajesh Rai  | Phuentsholing

The neighbouring town of Jaigaon sharing a porous border with the country’s largest trading centre, Phuentsholing, has lifted the strict lockdown rule imposed on most Indian states.

It was in line with the West Bengal state government’s decision on May 4 to relax the lockdown allowing most businesses to open from yesterday.

With the border gate still sealed and vigilance and surveillance for the prevention of the coronavirus strengthened, nothing has changed in Phuentsholing.

However, Phuentsholing residents are worried.

One concerned resident said those fighting to prevent Covid-19 in the frontline would get tremendous pressure having to increase vigilance.

“They are already working day and night to see there are no unnecessary trespassers from across the border,” he said.

Prior to yesterday’s relaxation, police on the Jaigaon side strictly restricted movement across the border, which he said, will not happen now and could leave adverse impact on Phuentsholing.

Meanwhile, despite the relaxation, there was not much gathering across the border yesterday evening.

In a telephonic interview, a Jaigaon shopkeeper, Anil Prasad, said there are strict rules to follow even with the relaxation.

“We have to maintain strict physical distancing,” he said, adding that all the safety criteria mandated by the state government and the merchant association should be followed.

Anil Prasad said shopkeepers are asked to just engage 25 percent of their employees.

“Only seven people are allowed to gather in a shop at a time,” he said.  “Customers and staffs should also wear masks compulsorily.”

Although the risk factor is still there to open business spaces, Anil Prasad said people have mixed opinions about the relaxation. The business, on the other hand, is in a “horrible state,” he said, explaining there were only shopkeepers standing yesterday.

Anil Prasad said those who opened yesterday might have opened in excitement after such a long lockdown.

An electronics shopkeeper, Ashok Gupta said unlike other towns, Jaigaon was granted to open from 10am to 5pm.

“Although risk factor is there crowding is not allowed,” he said. Ashok Gupta said there aren’t many customers despite the relaxation. Shopkeepers may not be interested to open shops if there are no customers, explaining only time will tell how the situation would transpire.

Meanwhile, there are about 138 dessups who are manning the informal points along the borders. The border areas starting from Amochhu to the extreme point of Pana C village under Sampheling gewog is manned.

Another 54 dessups are also in various areas in the town monitoring people’s movements for physical distancing and other prevention measures. Police, government officials and volunteers also patrol these border areas in Phuentsholing.