December 16, 2018 12:20:41 pm
Sabroom’s status as a sleepy border town in South Tripura could be soon coming to an end. The Rs 73-crore bridge being built over River Feni, which divides India and Bangladesh on the southernmost tip of Tripura, is expected to transform the town into the largest transit hub in the northeast.
This 150-metre four-lane bridge will connect Tripura with Chittagong port in Bangladesh, just 70 km from the Indo-Bangla border. The bridge will thus become an important part of the proposed economic corridor through India, Bangladesh, China and Myanmar.
Started in October 2017, the Feni Bridge project is expected to be completed by March 2020.
Engineer Om Veer Deswal, who is supervising construction labourers on-site, said 20 per cent work is completed and pillars are already up on the Indian side. But work for foundation of the bridge is still in progress on the Bangladesh side.
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River Feni now has a makeshift bridge used to carry goods and workers between the two countries. Border Security Force (BSF) and Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB) keep a strict vigil to make sure there is no infiltration.
“We are working inside Indo-Bangla border fence. There is no contact with any Bangladeshi contractors,” said Golak Mohanti, a surveyor from Authority of Engineers.
But residents of Nabinpara, where the bridge is being built, are not all that happy with how the project has been conceptualised. “We have been living at Nabinpara for three generations. This habitation started in 1928 and my father Nabin Chakraborty, after whom the village was named, was given the land by the Tripura king. A bridge is being built here and we are happy. But it has come at the cost of our homes,” Balendra Chakraborty, a retired school teacher, told indianexpress.com.
Around a thousand people from 120 families will have to vacate their homes at the end of project work.
Chakraborty received the first eviction notice in December 2017, like many others in the village. “They told us that we would get double the price of land. We got the compensation in June this year, only it was double the government approved rate, but one-fourth of prevailing market rates. We can’t purchase any land nearby with this money, not even in interior villages,” he said.
Jiban Chakraborty, another villager from Nabinpara, said the prevailing market rate of land is Rs 1 crore per Kani in the area. But the government approved price is just Rs 12.5 lakh. “Jatan Das’s house was dismantled and his land acquired, but he has not yet been given any money,” he added.
Mati Lal Das, a local pump operator, felt both India and Bangladesh will develop due to the low-cost transportation facilities. “But these people will not be able to build homes elsewhere with the compensation money they got from the government,” he said.
Professor Lipi Ghosh of the Department of South and South East Asian Studies, Calcutta University, who visited Feni Bridge recently said everyone will benefit from the bridge. “Feni Bridge will connect India’s Northeast with Bangladesh and through it to many other countries. In distant future, maybe a whole new route till Myanmar will be opened through here. This will benefit everyone. This will become a historical link to contemporary convergences,” she said.
Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb has referred to Feni bridge on several occasions and said it will help develop the state as a major international transport and transit hub. In November he said his government intends to commence three projects including Feni Bridge, inland waterways transport with Bangladesh at Sonamura in Sipahijala district, 70 km from Agartala, and the ambitious Agartala-Akhaura rail project. These projects would make Tripura the largest export-import hub of the region and a crucial player in India’s trade routes with neighbouring South East Asian countries.
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