Assam: Narendra Modi lays foundation stones for two bridges
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday laid foundation stones for two bridges in Assam, one of which will be the country’s longest river bridge, through the virtual mode in a push to improve connectivity in the poll-bound state.
Modi said bridges such as Dr Bhupen Hazarika Setu, Bogibeel and Saraighat in Assam are not only making the life of people easy but also strengthening the security of the country by facilitating the smooth movement of troops.
On Thursday, the foundation stone was laid for the 19km Dhubri-Phulbari bridge and the “bhoomi pujan (earth worship)” performed for the 6.8km Majuli-Jorhat bridge. “The campaign to connect Assam and the Northeast has been carried forward today,” Modi said, lauding the efforts of chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his government for the work on getting the projects moving.
The bridge from Dhubri in Assam to Phulbari in Meghalaya will improve connectivity by reducing the distance between Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Assam.
Modi pointed out that the distance between Meghalaya and Assam is around 250km, which will be reduced to just 19-20km after the completion of the bridge, as on day India’s longest river bridge. The bridge will be built at a cost of around Rs 4,997 crore.
The current longest river bridge in India, at 9.15km, is the Bhupen Hazarika Setu which connects Dhola with Sadiya.
The two-lane bridge on the Brahmaputra between Kamalabari in Majuli (north bank) and Neematighat in Jorhat (south bank) too has been a long-pending demand of the people of Majuli who for generations have been dependent on the ferry services for commuting like those living in Dhubri and Phulbari.
Sonowal termed the day as historic as the dream of Majuli’s people for a bridge is going to be realised and he thanked the Prime Minister and Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari for this initiative.
Sonowal represents Majuli constituency. The promise for the bridge was made in 2016. The chief minister also said that the Rs 3,200 crore Mahabahu Brahmaputra project would harness the potential of the Barak and the Brahmaputra rivers and strengthen the economic foundation of the state.
Dwelling on the project, Modi said this will strengthen connectivity on the Brahmaputra through port-led development.
The three Ro-Pax (passenger roll-on and roll-off) ferry services which were also launched online makes Assam a front-runner state to be connected with such services at this scale. This, along with the four tourist jetties, will significantly improve Assam’s connectivity with the Northeast, the Prime Minister said.
Modi, who will visit Dhemaji on February 25, lamented that the neglect to connectivity issues over the years had deprived the state of its prosperity. The infrastructure deteriorated and waterways almost got wasted, which the Prime Minister said led to unrest.
“The course correction started during the tenure of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee... In recent years, steps were taken to re-establish multi-modal connectivity in Assam. Efforts are on to make Assam and the Northeast the hub of our cultural and business relations with other East Asian countries... today’s connectivity related launches will open new avenues of tourism and Assam could emerge as a major destination for cruise tourism. We have to work collectively to make Assam and the Northeast a strong pillar of Atmanirbhar Bharat,” Modi said.
Gadkari said road and infrastructure work worth Rs 1 lakh crore are being undertaken in Assam.
He also said that the construction of the 55km-long road from Serampore in Bengal to Dhubri in Assam will begin in October, saving the distance and time needed to travel to Bhutan and Bangladesh.
The Opposition Congress was not enthused by the developments on Thursday.
According to the party, the much-hyped launch of the Mahabahu Brahmaputra with the flagging off the Ro-Pax ferry services between Majuli and Neematighat, South Guwahati and North Guwahati and Dhubri to Hatisingimari by the Prime Minister had to be taken with a “pinch of salt” as a similar service launched in Gujarat in 2017 by Modi had “flopped badly”.
“Now the question arises whether the technical details have been planned and laid out for the Ro-Pax ferry services in Assam? Or will it face the same fate as the much hyped Ro-Ro ferry in Gujarat which is dysfunctional? Given the negative reports of the ferry service in Gujarat, it is suspected that the much hyped Ro-Pax service in Assam is nothing but an election stunt,” PCC media department chairperson Bobbeeta Sharma said.
“It is also noteworthy to mention that the foundation stone for the Neematighat-Majuli bridge was laid on February 27, 2016, by Gadkari near Majuli College playground. Today another foundation stone was laid for the same bridge! What was the government doing in the last five years?” she further asked.
With the Election Commission likely to announce the poll dates by February-end, the government has stepped up its activities by launching or inaugurating one project or scheme after another in Assam that goes to polls in April-May. Modi’s visit will be followed by that of Union home minister Amit Shah to Nagaon on February 25.