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Delhi seeks Bangla help

New Delhi, June 25: India has sought help from Bangladesh for transit of foodgrain to the Northeast in view of disruption of a rail link in Assam because of gauge-conversion that will affect four northeastern states.

Dhaka is said to have agreed to allow transit of 10,000 tonnes of foodgrain this month through its territory. The consignment is being loaded on ships at Visakhapatnam port from where it will be shipped to a Bangladesh port and then transported by river to Ashuganj in Chittagong division and into Tripura.

“Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj will request the Bangladesh government for shipping of another 35,000 tonnes of foodgrain to Tripura,” home ministry sources said. Swaraj is on a visit to Dhaka till June 27.

If Dhaka agrees to the transit arrangement, shipping of essentials to Tripura will be easier. However, the landing port will be in southern Tripura.

The government will still be left with the logistical challenge of transporting goods to southern Assam, parts of Manipur and Mizoram. Transport of essential commodities to Tripura is through the highways in Assam or the vital rail link from Lumding in Nagaon district of Assam. However, the Lumding-Badarpur section of the NF Railway is undergoing a medium-to-broad gauge conversion. With tunnelling mostly concluded, the laying of rails is to commence soon. “There will be a mega block for about one-and-a-half years,” a source said.

The over 200km rail link not only takes the burden of transporting essentials to southern Assam but also to Manipur and Tripura.

An action plan is being prepared for tackling the huge logistical challenge. Cabinet secretary Ajit Seth held a series of meetings with senior officials of the railways, home ministry and other related departments to push for finalisation of the plan, sources said.

National Highway 44 will be the alternative artery for transporting essentials items, including foodgrain, to southern Assam areas like Silchar, north Tripura and Mizoram.

The highway connects from the Meghalaya border to Silchar and onward to Tripura. The government will be preparing various highways via Haflong in Assam and Jiribam in Manipur for transporting essentials to these states.

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