People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 21, 2007
Expedite Railway Projects In Tripura
CPI(M) MPs Meet Rail Minister
A delegation of CPI(M) MPs led by Sitaram Yechury, leader of CPI(M) group in Rajya Sabha and chairman of parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture met the union railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav regarding railway projects for Tripura.
The delegation which met the minister on January 16, 2007 included leader of CPI(M) group in Lok Sabha and chairman of parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways, Basudeb Acharia, and CPI(M) Lok Sabha member from Tripura, Khagen Das. They handed over a memorandum in this regard and requested the minister to expedite the projects in the state. The chairman of the Railway Board was also present in the meeting.
The following is the text of the memorandum submitted to the railway minister:
THE major impediment for development of Tripura has been its geographical isolation and limited connectivity with the mainland. Before independence the state was well connected with the mainland through Bangladesh by road, rail and air. After partition the state was deprived of all modes of connectivity and became totally landlocked, surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides.
The railway line linking Tripura has come up to Manu and construction of railway line from Manu to Agartala is in progress. This project has been given the status of a National Project with the target date for completion being March 2007. However, on account of the delays in the tunneling work it is expected that there would be some delay in the completion. The railway minister needs to fully mobilise the ministry’s resources to ensure that the project is completed in the shortest possible time.
Extension of the railway line up to Sabroom, which is the southernmost tip of the state, has been a long-standing demand of the people of Tripura. The project is extremely important for the state as the Kumarghat-Agartala railway line would serve only a part of the state. Its full benefits would accrue only if the line is extended upto Sabroom, connecting the remaining part of the West and full of the Southern part of the state – which is agriculturally and economically more developed and is rich in natural gas, rubber and other national resources. These resources still remain to be fully exploited due to inadequate transportation facilities.
Most importantly once Sabroom is connected, it would facilitate connection of the North Eastern region with the Chittagong Port of Bangladesh which is only at a distance of 75 km from Sabroom. With this link in position, Tripura can become the gateway for trade and commerce to other South East Asian countries and add to the economic prosperity of the region.
The standard norm of the Railways to take up railway lines on the basis of internal rate of return should not be applied to Agartala-Sabroom section as this railway line, in addition to providing the much needed reliable link for remotely located border areas with the rest of the country, would have great strategic importance in terms of addressing the security needs of the area which are matters of national importance and concern. Hence, it is a fit case where the norms of financial viability need to be relaxed.
Under BIMSTEC and SAFTA, India has entered into agreements with the neighbouring countries, which includes Bangladesh, to promote trade in the neighbourhood. These agreements as and when they become operational would ensure substantial flow of goods across international borders in the North Eastern region. The traffic load projection for the Agartala-Sabroom line should necessarily take this factor into account.
North-East region, including Tripura, has been confronting with the anti-national insurgency problem for the last three decades. This has been causing serious concern for our national unity and integrity. It is an admitted fact that backwardness and under-development is one of the root causes of this insurgency problem.
The region is endowed with valuable natural and mineral resources. But due to absence of basic infrastructure the available resources cannot be tapped in a proper manner for the benefit of the region and the country as a whole. Speedy development of modern system of connectivity can bring a sea change in this region. Hence, rail connectivity shall be able to play a very vital and pivotal role to remove the cloud of uncertainty and the sense of deprivation prevailing in the minds of the people and usher in a new hope of prosperity.
Therefore, considering the paramount importance of this line for the socio-economic development of the backward region and given its strategic importance, the extension of the line upto Sabroom should be taken up by modification of the ongoing National Project of the line up to Agartala without going into the considerations of immediate commercial returns, as the long term socio-economic benefits outweigh the investment that is required to be made at this stage and suitable provision for the same be made in the forthcoming budget. (INN)