A recent report titled “Gender Mainstreaming at India’s Land Ports” by the Land Ports Authority of India and various stakeholders highlights the neglect of the statutory body in creating gender-inclusive and accessible infrastructure at India’s land ports. The study, published in June, emphasises the importance of gender mainstreaming in facilitating women’s participation in regional trade. Twelve land ports, including eight operational Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) and four Land Customs Stations (LCSs), were surveyed to assess the differences in infrastructure between LCSs and ICPs.
The National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (NTFAP) recognises gender mainstreaming as an area where India has not performed as well as its regional counterparts. The study emphasises the significance of women-led development by employing women in various roles at the ports, such as custom house agents, logistics operators, traders, and freight forwarders.
The study identifies two categories of women engaged in regional trade: those involved in trade-related activities and procedures, and those involved in the management of the ports and operations related to expansion patterns, security, and development plans.
To analyse the infrastructure at the land ports, the researchers developed a “Model Review Checklist” to measure the availability of quality infrastructure. They also conducted a “Gender Lens Assessment” to evaluate the accessibility, maintenance, performance, and efficiency of the infrastructure, as well as the diversity of the workforce. The study also assessed the impact of quality infrastructure on female employees using four evaluative parameters: constraints on mobility, well-being, transaction costs, and safety. The results categorised this impact as either facilitating or constraining for women.
The survey found that the land ports lacked in all six assessment criteria, including information and access to the port, basic utilities, public amenities, safety measures, cargo handling, and digitisation. The availability of digital services for accessing real-time information of procedures and processes was a major constraint. Additionally, reliable and safe public transportation from ports to nearby towns was unavailable, causing difficulties for women.
Regarding basic utilities, drinking water, internet, and mobile connectivity were generally available, but power backup and internet connectivity needed improvement. While separate toilets for women with running water supply were available, facilities such as cubicles for the physically challenged, lactation rooms, health centres, and first-aid booths were missing.
During stakeholder consultations, women raised concerns about the lack of safety procedures, with malfunctioning CCTV cameras and a lack of police patrolling in the port complex. The infrastructure and equipment for cargo handling at ICPs were found to be better than at LCSs. However, infrastructural gaps and insufficient mechanisation led to increased transaction time for women engaged in trade. Insufficient mechanisation, absence of separate lanes for export and import cargo, inconsistent water and electricity supply, lack of policing, and ineffective communication channels were identified as contributing factors. The increased transaction time discouraged women from engaging in activities that required physical visits.
Fragmented implementation of e-processing initiatives and digitisation at the land ports negatively affected women. The digitisation process was not fully electronic, requiring custom house agents to manually file physical records for documentation and shipment movement.
The report emphasises the strategic importance of land ports as key gateways for trade with border-sharing countries. With expected increases in India’s trade across land borders due to regional agreements, addressing infrastructural gaps has become a policy necessity. Coordination between port authorities and State governments, along with gender diversity and gender mainstreaming policies in regional trade agreements, can help mitigate the challenges faced by women and enhance the facilitation of female employees at India’s ports.
(with inputs from Surbhi Dadhich)