Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina, Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, inaugurated the commencement of works for the Agartala-Akhaura rail project on Monday through video conferencing. Two other projects were also inaugurated which include the power supply to Bangladesh from West Bengal and an inland waterways transport over River Feni.
Speaking to the press after the joint unveiling of e-plaque of commencement of the Indo-Bangla rail link project, CM Biplab Deb said the move is a major step towards PM Modi’s goal of developing North-East India into ‘Astalaxmi’ and ‘HIRA’. “Prime Minister Modi wants to develop North-East India into HIRA and Astalaxmi. Today’s joint inaugural ceremony is a major step towards that goal. This project will develop the socio-economic and cultural bond between the two nations,” Deb said.
During one of his election campaigns in Tripura before the February 18 assembly election this year, PM Modi had said if his party is voted to power, Tripura would be turned into ‘HIRA’, which is acronym for development in highways, i-ways or Internet services, roadways and airways. Referring to eight states of the northeast, he had said the region would be developed into ‘Astalaxmi’.
Deb also said he would request the prime ministers of both nations to consider proposals of direct goods transportation instead of interventions of loading and unloading.
The Agartala-Akhaura rail project was conceptualized in 2010. Later, India and Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a couple of issues including the rail project in 2013. The rail link is expected to be operational in 2019.
The 15.054 km long rail project in west Tripura district is being constructed with an estimated expenditure of Rs 968 crores. It would connect Akhaura in Bangladesh with Tripura’s capital city Agartala through Nischintapur in the Indo-Bangla border.
Apart from Agartala-Akhaura rail project, a bridge is being constructed over River Feni which would connect Sabroom in south Tripura with Feni district of Bangladesh. Once operational, Tripura would be only 66 km away from Chittagong port in Bangladesh.
Haldia port of West Bengal is mostly used for transportation of goods and commodities to North-East India, which is 1,220 km away from Guwahati in Assam. The Tripura government hopes Agartala-Akhaura rail project and Feni bridge has the potential to turn the state into ‘gateway for Northeast’.