Tripura stares at food crisis

Highway damaged in rain

By Our Special Correspondent in Agartala
  • Published 29.04.16

Agartala, April 28: Tripura is staring at a scarcity of essential commodities because of the abysmal condition of National Highway 44 on a 30km stretch between Churaibari, the state's northern boundary with Assam, and the Loarpoa area under Karimganj district of Barak Valley following torrential rain over the past week.

More than 1,500 trucks, carrying essential items, are stranded. To make matters worse, wheels of at least 12 trucks are stuck in the mud.

Only one goods train managed to reach Agartala today.

The broad-gauge passenger train service which was expected to start by March 31, has not yet started as the entire stretch of the track and the ground condition between Badarpur in Barak Valley and Agartala is being rechecked following cave-in of tracks at Panisagar in North Tripura and three other places between Agartala and North district headquarters at Dharmanagar.

Expressing grave concern over deadlock on the national highway, transport minister Manik Dey said the state was facing a major crisis because of the pathetic condition of the 30km stretch of NH-44 between Churaibari and Loarpoa.

"The crisis came to the fore after the Border Roads Organisation dissociated itself from maintenance work in 2014. There is no repair or timely intervention to restore normality whenever it is affected by rain. Last year, there was a massive crisis during monsoon, but this time heavy pre-monsoon rain has created this crisis. No vehicle can move unless the road completely dries up. The problem has worsened after 12 trucks got stuck in mud," Dey said.

He said the Union surface communication ministry and the ministry of highways had been informed about the situation. Highly-placed sources in the transport department said the PWD cannot do anything beyond the boundaries of the state and since the administration in Assam is not fully functional - till the declaration of the Assembly poll results on May 19 - there is not much help from the Assam side also.

As truck drivers continue to wait, passengers of buses and jeeps have been crossing this 30km stretch on foot to catch vehicles on the other side for onward journeys to Karimganj and Silchar or Dharmangar and Agartala.

"The main trouble is that the stranded trucks are carrying perishable goods most of which have already rotted or will rot completely within a day or two. This will create a major crisis of vegetables, edible oil among other items in Tripura's markets," said a source in the transport department.

The sources ruled out normality on the 30km stretch of the highway without central intervention.

The commencement of broad gauge passenger railway service between Agartala and other parts of the country, including Assam, too has become uncertain because of slipshod nature of track-laying work.