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PM Modi and Sheikh Hasina inaugurate cross-border rail link & 2 other India-backed projects

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NEW DELHI : Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday jointly inaugurated three projects via virtual mode, including a key rail link between Tripura’s Nischintapur and Gangasagar in the neighbouring country.

A decade after India and Bangladesh signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for setting up the first Indo-Bangla international railway connectivity in Northeast India in 2013, jointly inaugurated the Agartala-Akhaura project virtually from New Delhi and Dhaka, respectively.

The project is all set to usher in new possibilities of connectivity, transit and trade and commerce for the otherwise land-locked state of Tripura. Chief Minister Dr Manik Saha joined the event virtually from Agartala.

In his speech at the inaugural event, Modi said his government signed the Indo-Bangla Land Boundary Agreement which was pending for decades, resolved the maritime boundary issue and laid special stress on infrastructure development and connectivity between the two countries. He also called the moment historic.

The other two projects inaugurated by Modi and Hasina are the 65-km Khulna-Mongla Port Rail Line, and Unit 2 of the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant in Bangladesh’s Rampal.

Terming India to be “Bangladesh’s biggest development partner”, Modi said while the bilateral relations have strengthened connectivity between India and Bangladesh, it has also boosted the neighbouring country’s energy sector and regional connectivity.

He also said that a power trade understanding was instrumentalised between India, Bangladesh and Nepal in recent times and said his government’s policy of ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ equally applies to other nations.

Tripura Chief Minister Dr Manik Saha said the Agartala-Akhaura railway project is crucial for connectivity in the Northeast region and it would make Tripura the gateway for tourism.

“This day will go down in golden letters in the history of the Indo-Bangla relationship. Tripura will be the gateway for tourism and transport between India and Bangladesh. With the establishment of the Agartala-Akhaura railway project, the distance between Agartala and Kolkata will now reduce from 1,600 km to 500 km,” Saha said.

He added that Modi had spoken about the HIRA Model of development (Highways, i-ways, railways and airways) in his Act East Policy which will be implemented in the real sense now with the Indo-Bangla railway connectivity in service.

Detailing connectivity development in the Northeast region in the BJP regime, Saha said 508 railway stations are being re-developed in the country under the Amrit Bharat Station scheme, of which 91 railway stations are being redeveloped in Northeast India.

“Foundation stones have been laid for redeveloping these 91 stations at an expenditure of Rs 5,100 crore. The Dharmanagar, Udaipur and Kumarghat railway stations are being re-developed at Rs 96.6 crore under this scheme while the Agartala station is being developed under the World Class Station Scheme at Rs 235.45 crore. New escalators and most importantly, new trains are being started here,” Saha said, adding that the revolutionization of the railway services in the region has immensely benefited passenger and goods transportation, tourism and trade.

“Ever since Prime Minister Modi has come to power in Delhi, modern railway connectivity has ushered in Tripura. Broad-Gauge railway services were launched in Tripura in 2016 with the Purvottar Sampark Kranti Express being the first train. Since then, Tripura has come a long way in railway connectivity with 19 trains operating in the state now, including 13 express trains, five demu trains and one local train between Agartala and Dharmanagar,” Saha said.

Thanking Modi, Hasina and Railway Minister Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw for the Indo-Bangla railway connectivity, Saha said the project would strengthen the ties between the two countries.

The IRCON or the Indian Railway Construction International Limited, a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Indian Railways, completed the work on the Indian side of the Agartala-Akhaura project while Texmaco implemented the work on the Bangladesh side. As much as 86.85 acre land was acquired for the project on the Indian side and handed over to the IRCON.

A senior official of the Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) said while a trial run of goods trains was conducted on the Agartala-Akhaura route Monday, the same for passenger trains may be done soon.

Notably, the erstwhile Left Front government had expressed its desire to access the Chittagong and Mongla ports of Bangladesh for multi-lateral connectivity and trade but it is the BJP-led government which brought Tripura under a new age of trade and commerce.

Under the BJP-led Tripura government, the state got a series of international connectivity projects, including a second Integrated Check Post (ICP) of the state at Sabroom, an Indo-Bangla Maitri Setu (friendship bridge), inland waterways connectivity project with Bangladesh at Tripura’s Sepahijala district and the Agartala-Akhaura railway project.

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