Biplab Kumar Deb. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

Agartala, Oct 3 : Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb on Thursday said that with the extension of the railway network, transportation between the northeastern states and the rest of India would be easier as the region would now be able to utilise Bangladeshi ports and railway networks.

"The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) extended the railway line up to (southern Tripura's) border town Sabroom. Hence, the transportation between the northeastern states and the rest of India would be more easy as the region would be able to utilise Bangladeshi ports and railway networks," the Chief Minister said after flagging off the passenger train services in the Dharmanagar-Agartala-Sabroom section linking border town Sabroom along the Bangladesh border and the state's second largest commercial town adjoining Assam.

He said that the distance between Haldia port (in West Bengal) and Assam's main city of Guwahati is 1,200 km while the distance between Guwahati and Chittagong international sea port (in southeast Bangladesh) is just 600 km.

"Connectivity between northeastern states and rest of the country through north Bengal (via Siliguri corridor) is treacherous due to mountainous terrain, time consuming and expensive while transportation through Bangladesh is much easier, time saving and inexpensive," Deb pointed out.

He said that with the expansion of the railway network in Tripura and other northeastern states and with the utilisation of the Bangladeshi road and railway network, tourism would be boosted in the picturesque and unexplored northeast India.

"Due to uncomfortable existing transportation route between northeast India and rest of the country, over 50 per cent of the allocated amount is spent for ferrying of goods, machinery and essentials. If the proposed waterways are established between the northeast region and Bangladesh, not only transportation would be easier, the GDP (Gross domestic products) of all the northeastern states would be increased," the Chief Minister said.

Immediately after flagging off the passenger train services at the Agartala railway station, the Chief Minister left for Delhi, where he would meet Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Hasian arrived in New Delhi on Thursday on a four-day visit to India and she will hold talks with her Indian counterpart during which several bilateral agreements are set to be inked.

"After Petrapole-Benapole border (along West Bengal), Bangladesh has recently allowed India to export 13 more items through the Tripura borders. I would approach Hasina to allow export of more items including tea through the state borders. Tripura has 54 big tea gardens facilitating huge employment," said Deb, who also holds the Industries and Commerce portfolios.

He said that the under construction bridge over Feni river in southern Tripura would be completed by next year and linking of the northeastern state with Chittagong port and other parts of Bangladesh would be easier, time and cost saving.

"India and Bangladesh already in-principle agreed to make a new waterway between Tripura and Cumilla in the eastern part of that country. I would also discuss the matter with Hasina," he added.

Union Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya in a recent letter to the Tripura Chief Minister had said that after taking a view on the recommendations of the Joint Technical Committee (JTC) of India and Bangladesh, his ministry had, through India's High Commissioner in Dhaka, requested the Bangladesh government to accord in-principle approval for inclusion of the Sonamura (Tripura, India)-Daudkandi (Bangladesh) stretch of the Gomati river as part of the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (water) route.

"After getting confirmation from Bangladesh, the Sonamura-Daudkandi (in Cumilla district of eastern Bangladesh) stretch would be included as part of the India-Bangladesh Protocol Route in the second addendum to PIWTT (Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade) to be signed in the next Shipping Secretary level talks between the two countries," the Union Minister had said.

In his letter, a copy of which is available with IANS, Mandaviya told Deb that the movement of vessels on the Gomati river between India and Bangladesh for providing waterway connectivity to Tripura would be possible only after inclusion of the Sonamura-Daudkandi stretch as part of the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route.

Four Indian land-locked northeastern states of Tripura (856 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Mizoram (318 km) and Assam (263 km) share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh.

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