Connectivities a Must for State’s Development
On behalf of the whole council of ministers in the state, a group of ministers from Tripura submitted on June 21, 2013 the following memorandum to the president of India, when he was on a visit to the state. The memorandum sought to draw the president’s attention to the myriad problems the state has been facing ever since the partition of the country. THE government of Tripura extends warm welcome to you on behalf of the people of Tripura on your visit to the state. We are indeed honoured by your presence amongst us. You have come to Tripura this time as the head of the state of our country. However, Tripura is not new to you. You have visited Tripura on earlier occasions and you have always taken keen interest in the development of the state. The state of Tripura, as you are aware, has been one of the worst victims of the partition of India. The state suffered from geographical isolation for many decades, which adversely affected the development process in the state. As you would appreciate, good connectivity is a prerequisite for the development of any state. Over the last few years, there has been some improvement in the connectivity, but it is still nowhere close to what is necessary. In this context, we would like to place before you some significant points regarding the connectivity related issues which require urgent attention. The same are as follows: Road Connectivity: The National Highway NH-44, which is the lifeline for Tripura, is not even two-lane and the same is in a very bad shape. The prime minister had announced, during his visit to Tripura in the year 2005 for the laying the foundation stone for the 726.6-MW Palatana power project, that the NH-44 will be upgraded to four-lane standard. Unfortunately, nothing much has been done even after a lapse of about eight years. Recently, the government of India decided that initially two-laning will be done and later on, four-laning will be taken up. However, there is not much progress so far. This needs to be expedited. Secondly, the state government has been pursuing the matter with the government of India for development of an alternative National Highway from Kukital to Sabroom, considering that the NH-44 often gets blocked due to landslides and other reasons, thus snapping the link of Tripura with the rest of India. An alternative land route is essential for having reliable a link with the rest of the country. Similarly, there is also a need for expeditious completion of the work of Manu-Simlung Road (NH-44A), for a better link with the neighbouring Mizoram Rail Connectivity: The railway network has been extended up to state capital, Agartala, and work is going on for extending the same up to Sabroom. However, the railway line up to Agartala is on metre gauge, which negates most of the benefits of having a rail link. Cargo transportation is not feasible. Long range trains cannot be operated, since the rail line beyond Lumding is broad gauge. Even good rail coaches and engines are not available for the metre gauge trains. The work of broad-gauging of railway line on the Lumding-Silchar section has been progressing at a painfully slow pace, and the same needs to be speeded up. The work of extension of railway line on the Agartala-Udaipur and Udaipur-Sabroom sections is going on, but the same is likely to be delayed for want of adequate fund allocation by the ministry of railways for the project. This requires immediate attention. The government of India needs to attach high priority to this ‘national project.’ Air Connectivity: Air connectivity acquires added significance in view of the poor rail-road connectivity of the state. Agartala Airport is the second busiest airport in the North-East after Guwahati and at present about 22 flights operate to and from Agartala every day, carrying about 2,700 passengers per day. There is a strong case for upgradation of the Agartala airport and for declaration of this airport as an international airport with connectivity to Dhaka, Chittagong and other foreign locations. The matter has been taken up with the government of India. Even the concerned parliamentary standing committee has given a favourable recommendation on this issue. In addition, it is necessary to operationalise the Kailashahar and Kamalpur airports (which used to operate in the past) in order to improve air connectivity to remote parts of the state. Telecom Connectivity: A reliable telecommunication link is absolutely necessary for the development of the state. Tripura is currently connected with the rest of the country through an OFC link on the Agartala-Dharmanagar-Shillong-Guwahati-Kolkata route. During natural calamities, disruption of telecom link between Agartala and Guwahati often happens due to OFC damages. In view of this, an Indo-Bangla OFC link needs to be established to have an alternative. Indo-Bangla OFC connectivity up to Dhaka via Krishnanagar (India) and Darshana (Bangladesh) has already been extended but no progress has been made in the Dhaka-Akhaura-Agartala OFC linkage though the same has been approved ‘in principle’ by the department of telecom of the government of India. The government of India needs to pursue this matter in a proactive manner in order to expedite the same. Connectivity with Bangladesh: Prior to the partition of the country, the economy of Tripura was closely integrated with that of Bangladesh. Most of the major towns of Bangladesh including Dhaka and Chittagong are within 150 km of the Tripura- Bangladesh border. The people of Tripura had access to the railway network of Bangladesh and the state was reasonably well connected with the rest of the country through Bangladesh. But with the partition of the country, these links were snapped. The visit of the prime minister of Bangladesh to India in January 2010 provided an opportunity to re-establish the old links. The government of Bangladesh has, inter alia, agreed to (i) providing access to the Chittagong port, (ii) declaration of Ashuganj as the port of call and allowing multi-modal transportation, (iii) establishing the Agartala-Akhaura railway link, and (iv) operationalising the Sabroom-Ramgarh land custom station by constructing a bridge over the Feni river. However, the progress in implementation of these agreements during the last about three years has been rather slow. The government of India needs to adopt a more proactive and accommodative approach towards Bangladesh so that things can move faster. Improved connectivity with Bangladesh shall benefit not only Tripura, but the entire north eastern region. We request the president for his kind intervention on the above issues. The government of Tripura expresses its sincere gratitude to the president of India for his kind visit to the state.