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Tripura set to emerge as connectivity hub

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AGARTALA : The state Transport Minister Shri Pranajit Sinha Roy said that, Tripura is slowly turning into a connectivity hub with several projects, which had long been in gestation, finally getting off the ground,.

Most of these projects, running through neighbouring Bangladesh, would reduce the time taken to send or receive goods from mainland India and help Tripura emerge as the country’s prime export centre, he said

Tripura, a landlocked state, was connected (with the rest of the country) by only a meter gauge rail line up to the capital city for a long time. The scenario started changing after the NDA, led by Narendra Modi, came to power in 2014. The entire rail network was converted to a broad gauge one and extended up to Sabroom, the southernmost town bordering Chittagong in Bangladesh,” Roy said.

The minister also pointed out that ‘Maitri Setu’, a 1.9 km-long bridge from Tripura to Bangladesh, has “further strengthened ties” between the neighbours.

The bridge over river Feni, inaugurated by the prime minister last year, will ease movement of goods and passengers between the two countries, besides providing new trade opportunities to the northeastern states, Roy stated.

Tripura CM Shri Biplab Deb had recently said that the Centre sanctioned funds to widen the part of the bridge from Ramgarh to Chittagong on the Bangladesh side.

Once the road is made operational, a lorry will have travel only 72 km to reach Chittagong from Sabroom, Roy maintained.

Apart from that, work is underway to complete the 15.6 km Agartala Akhaura rail line.

“The railway link, expected to be completed next year, will cut down travel time between Agartala and Kolkata by at least 20 hours, when travelling via chicken-neck in Siliguri. Currently, an integrated check post and cargo handling facility is being built at Nischintapur the junction point of Agartala-Akhaura rail link,” the transport minister said.

At a function held recently, Bangladesh Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud said that “eastern India and Bangladesh will benefit due to better understanding as the bilateral relationship between the two sides has reached new heights”.

Experts feel that Tripura’s first-ever Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Sabroom, the southernmost town bordering Bangladesh, has the potential to turn the place into the commercial capital of northeast.

The SEZ around 120 km from Agartala is being set up with an investment of Rs 635 crore.

It would be focused on four sectors — agro-based processing, rubber, bamboo, and textiles.

According to an official, around 5,000 new jobs would be generated at Sabroom, and farmers and traders would be benefiting the most, given the fact that GST would be waived for five years, 30 per cent subsidy be made available on capital investment and 50 per cent on electricity.

The CM had said that “if businessmen set up garment units at the proposed SEZ, they don’t need to pay customs duty; instead they will receive a subsidy”.

Former vice-chancellor of Tripura University and senior economist Arunoday Saha said, “The SEZ would generate employment at the local level. Investors from Bangladesh have expressed interest in setting up garment industries. They would engage labourers from their country as well as this state.”

Echoing him, professor Asish Nath of Tripura University said, “The project would impress investors, enhance trade volume and increase GSDP.”

Among other projects lined up in the state is the 90-km-long Sonamura-Daudkandi waterway, which has been included in the list of Indo-Bangla protocol (IBP) routes and is expected to boost trade.

Presently, ships and steamers ply from Haldia in West Bengal to Daudkandi.

Of the 90-km stretch from Sonamura in Tripura’s Sepahijala district to Daudkandi in Bangladesh, around 40-km river bed requires dredging.

The Union government has agreed to fund 80 per cent of the total cost for dredging work in river Meghna on the Bangladesh side to operationalise the Indo-Bangla waterway.

The Centre has also sanctioned Rs 25 crore to build 10 floating jetties — to be laid from Udaipur in Gomati district to Sonamura in Sepahijala district — for trade convenience with Bangladesh.

Agartala, in the near future, will be connected with Dhaka, Chittagong and Bangkok through flights, the transport minister said.

Services along the Agartala-Dhaka and Agartala-Chittagong international routes were expected to begin within the next six months, and the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) would soon float tenders inviting expressions of interest from private bidders, he noted.

“The proposed international flight services with Bangladesh will surely bolster Tripura tourism. It will also benefit the people of Bangladesh in various ways.

“Also, now we have six direct trains connecting Tripura with Delhi, Bangalore, Deoghar and other places in the country. We have assurances from the Centre that a direct train to Mumbai and Jammu & Kashmir were in the offing. Tripura will no longer suffer from connectivity problems,” he added.

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