Sinlung /
07 August 2014

Foodgrains for Tripura Reach Ashuganj Port

Photo: Reuters Agartala, Aug 7 :  The first consignment of food grains for landlocked northeast India’s Tripura state has reached the Ashuganj river port, a minister here said.

He said that in the next two days, the consignment will enter the state through the Akhaura integrated check post (ICP) by road.

Tripura is now bringing in 10000 MT of foodgrains through the Chittagong-Ashuganj route per month.

If this works, it may soon request Bangladesh for allowing it to bring in 35000 MT of foodgrains through this route.

The consignment started by sea from India’s southern state on Andhra Pradesh on July 3 last and had reached Ashuganj in 31 days.

“We have received the news that the first consignment of 5000 MT of rice reached Ashuganj port today (Wednesday) afternoon and transportation of the consignment to our state is likely to start from coming August 8. We thank Bangladesh for allowing us to use their ports and roads and not charging anything for it,” said Tripura’s food and civil supply minister Bhanulal Saha.

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) will ship 10,000 MT of rice to Tripura from its Vishakhapatnam silo via the Ashuganj port in the neighbouring country under the “Indo-Bangladesh protocol route”.

India has begun using a new trade route via a Bangladeshi port as well as land terrain to ship food grains to the North-east, as the NDA government steps up ties with the neighbour after foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s recent successful visit to Dhaka.

Moreover, for around two years there shall be a major blockage of train route in Assam due to conversion from meter to broad-gauge between Lumding and Dharmanagar.

This is the lone train route for transporting food grains other than the lone national highway 44 that connects Tripura to mainland India.

“Bangladesh has been kind enough to move the Indian food grains to be transported through sea, river and its roads. Without their co-operation, it would not have been possible,” said B Tayeng, general manager of FCI northeast region.

“We are immediately trying for this route and going to reassess our difficulties after completion of the pilot project. We shall calculate the cost and time differences in transporting food grains on conventional land routes from Punjab to the northeast region by train and through the non-convention route through Bangladesh from Andhra Pradesh.”

The official informed that if the trial is successful then India will go for some permanent arrangement with Bangladesh for regional cooperation so that there is a win-win-situation for both the nations.

The new sea route reduces distance between some south Indian states and the Northeast by about 900 km, potentially cutting down transporters’ operating costs and opening up possibilities of greater commercial traffic.

From Ashuganj port, which is around 34 km from Tripura’s capital Agartala the consignment will be transported in Bangladesh lorries which will enter 7 km inside India up to Nandannagar FCI warehouse.

Tripura along with other northeastern states of India which suffer deficit in their staple food rice, try to make it up from northern surplus states like Punjab, Haryana or Chhattisgarh by train and roads which are often closed due to natural calamities and law and order problem within the region.

So the Indian government is exploring for an unconventional alternate route through Bangladesh.

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