Agartala, July 5: The Assam-Agartala National Highway 44, Tripura’s lifeline with the rest of the country, on a 12km-stretch between Churaibari in North Tripura and Loarpura in the neighbouring Karimganj district of Assam, has become unusable.
Compounding this problem is the guage conversion work which may stall railway services as well. The state government is trying to build stocks of food and other essential commodities to tide over any crisis during the gauge conversion work.
The Border Roads Organisation, in charge of maintenance of the road, has not been able to keep it in a good condition. Heavy rain has made the 12km stretch between Churaibari and Loarpura nearly unusable. “Hundreds of buses, trucks and other motor vehicles have to wait in long queues to cross this stretch of the road; this portion had been closed for three days though it has opened now,” said Dipak Roy, former Congress MLA and president of Tripura Motor Karmi Samity.
He said even the 198km stretch of NH-44 within the state has craters in the hilly areas of Atharomura, Longtaria and Barmura ranges. “The state’s demand for a second national highway connecting Tripura with the rest of the country should have been accepted and implemented much earlier; an initiative should be taken now, otherwise Tripura may get disconnected totally,” said Roy.
The problem of connectivity has been compounded by the tenuous nature of railway connectivity.
Yesterday, the engine of the Agartala-Dharmanagar train came to a halt in a dark tunnel in Longtarai hill range in Dhalai district. Many passengers developed breathing problems and two of them, Rabindra Deb, 36, and Shishir Nandi, 43, were injured while trying to rush out of the train. All the passengers had a harrowing time while going out of the tunnel and reached Jawharnagar railway station, 6km away on foot.
Besides, the soil close to the railway tracks between Agartala and Dharmanagar tends to get washed off in heavy rain. “These old and obsolete engines developing technical snags have become an almost regular feature, creating problems; we have informed the railway authority about the problem and sought new and efficient engines but so far nothing has been done,” said N. Adhikary, director of the transport department.
Adhikary said Tripura is also likely to face serious problems when the work on conversion of metre gauge into broad gauge begins from October 1. “The Barak Valley district of Assam, Mizoram and Manipur will also be affected but our problem is critical because suspension of railway services for five or six months will put excessive pressure on NH-44. The highway must be strengthened so that it can bear the heavy load,” said Adhikary.