Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Track conversion to hit food supply to NE from October

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Agartala:  The transport of foodgrains and other essentials to Tripura, Mizoram and other northeastern states “would be severely affected” following a ‘mega block’ of railway services from October, a Tripura minister said here Wednesday.
Under the ‘mega block’ programme, the railway lines would be converted from metre gauge to broad gauge. For this, the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) would stop train services in Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam from October.
Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey said: “In view of the ‘mega block’, carrying of foodgrains and other essentials from different parts of the country to Tripura, Mizoram, southern Assam and parts of Manipur would be severely affected.”
The railway line is broad gauge from Assam’s main city of Guwahati up to Lumding (in southern Assam). From Lumding, Tripura’s capital Agartala and parts of Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam, the railway link with the rest of India is single metre gauge.
The 437-km long Lumding-Agartala metre gauge railway line, part of which is in Assam and the remaining in Tripura, would be converted into broad gauge in two phases.
The gauge conversion work would start October this year and is scheduled to be completed by March 2016.
“The Tripura government has asked the NFR authorities to reschedule its gauge conversion work… to avoid the crisis..,” Dey told reporters.
The Tripura government has also requested the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to build a buffer stock of rice and other essential commodities for Tripura before the work begins.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar Tuesday held a meeting with NFR general manager R. S. Virdi and general manager (construction) Rajesh Kumar Singh and other top officials of the railways, FCI and Tripura government.
“The Tripura chief minister asked the railway officials to take the up gauge conversion work concurrently both in Assam and Tripura to complete the work early. The chief minister would also take up the matter with the railway minister and the prime minister,” Dey added.
Surface connectivity is an important factor as the landlocked northeastern states are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China.
The only land corridor to the northeastern states from India is through Assam and West Bengal and this route passes through over 70 percent hilly terrain with steep roads and multiple hairpin bends.
Carrying of food, essentials and heavy machinery for several northeastern states via Bangladesh from different parts of India is much easier. For instance, Agartala via Guwahati is 1,650 km from Kolkata and 2,637 km from New Delhi, while the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 350 km. (IANS)

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