Tripura is heading towards a major food crisis due to the deplorable condition of the lone national highway – NH-44 – that links Agartala to the rest of the country, following several months of heavy rains.
While the state that is surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides gets its entire essential supply by the only national highway that links it to Assam and the rest of India, major damage caused by rains in the recent past has greatly restricted the movement of vehicles on the route that it even remained closed for about 10 days last month.
Though officials in Agartala said that the state had a good stock of foodgrains, what is worrying most is the fast depletion of the stock of petroleum products and LPG. Hundreds of goods-laden trucks and tankers are either parked in Badarpur or Karimganj in Assam or are stranded after getting stuck in the muddy track that is left of the lone highway.
State food and civil supply special secretary S Bandopadhyaya said in Agartala that the Tripura government has requested the Assam government to urgently repair the damaged portions of the highway and ensure plying of trucks and oil tankers soon. The state however has a foodgrain stock for the next 70 days, he added. Tripura chief secretary YP Singh has also shot off a letter to the union road transport and highways ministry to restore normal traffic as early as possible.
It was only in June this year that Nitin Gadkari, union minister for road ttransport, highways and shipping, had announced construction of two new national highways to connect Tripura with Assam. Work on these two highways – one from Sabroom to Kukital in Assam and the other is from Khowai to Agartala – costing about Rs 800 crore, would start in December, the minister had said.
Meanwhile, the lone rail link to Tripura – currently a metre gauge track from Badarpur in Assam – will shut down for six months from October 1 for conversion to broad gauge. The Lumding-Silchar track in Assam that was upgraded to broad gauge in April this year, is yet to be opened for movement of passenger trains. The Agartala line takes off from Badarpur in Assam, and will reopen only in April 2016.