India to carry northeast essentials via Bangladesh

February 11th, 2012 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Agartala, Feb 11 (IANS) In a very significant development, the Bangladesh government has decided to allow India to ferry food grains and essentials for the mountainous northeastern states via its territory, a Tripura minister said here Saturday.

“After getting the green signal from Dhaka, FCI (Food Corporation of India) has initiated the process to transport food grains and essentials for the northeastern states using Bangladeshi port Ashuganj and roadways connected to the northeast,” Tripura Food and Civil Supplies Minister Manik Dey told reporters.

FCI chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) Syraj Hussain informed this to the minister at a meeting in New Delhi Thursday.

“The FCI has already floated tenders to select the transporters. In the first consignment 5,000 metric tonne of rice, wheat and sugar would be ferried to Tripura from West Bengal’s Haldia port via Ashuganj port in Bangladesh,” Dey said quoting the FCI CMD.

The FCI would carry the food grain in association with Inland Water Transport Authority (IWTA).

The northeastern states have largely been dependent on supply of food grains from other states, specially Punjab and Haryana.

“Due to shortage of rail wagons, inadequate storage facilities and various other bottlenecks, the northeastern states have been suffering from poor supply of food grains for most part of the year, especially during the monsoon,” the minister said.

During the monsoon season (June to September), road transport becomes very difficult in the mountain regions due to landslides, floods and other calamities.

Surface connectivity is a key factor as the hilly region is surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China, and the only land route to these states from within India is through Assam and West Bengal.

For ferrying goods, essentials and heavy machinery from abroad and other parts of the country, India has for long been demanding land, sea and rail access to the northeast through Bangladesh, which shares a 4,095-km border with India.

Agartala via Guwahati, for instance, is 1,650 km from Kolkata and 2,637 km from New Delhi. The distance between the Tripura capital and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 350 km.

Earlier, Dhaka had allowed state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) to transport over dimensional cargos (ODCs) of the 726 mw Palatana mega power project in southern Tripura using the Ashuganj port, 40 km west of Agartala city.

The oversized heavy turbines and other heavy machines for ONGC’s Palatana power project, carried on massive 140-wheeled trucks, had reached the site from Haldia port in West Bengal after being trans-shipped through Bangladesh.

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