The Hindu, November 02, 2015

The first trial run of a cargo vehicle on the Kolkata-Agartala via Dhaka route was flagged off here on Sunday.

It will reduce the distance between Kolkata and Agartala nearly by two-third. This is a part of the four-nation agreement among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) for cross-border movement of people and goods. Known as the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal and Cargo Vehicular Traffic, it was signed in Thimpu on June 15.

Unlike the traditional land route in which one has to cover a distance of 1,550 km via Siliguri in north Bengal to reach Agartala in Tripura from Kolkata, in the alternative route the distance would be reduced to 640 km as cargo vehicles will be transiting through Bangladesh.

“The benefits of the project are obvious as with the shortening of distance, transport cost will also come down,” said Vijay Chhibber, Secretary, Union Ministry of Road and Highways, who flagged off the trial run.

The alternative route is likely to make the movement of goods between the north- eastern State and rest of the country more convenient. As Tripura and north-eastern States such as Meghalaya and Mizoram share a long border with Bangladesh, cross-border movement of goods via Dhaka will be more cost effective and less time consuming.

“Tripura is the entry point to the north-east. In fact Manipur, Mizoram and the southern part of Assam will be connected with the rest of the country by this alternative route,” said Mr. Chhibber.

He, however, avoided a direct reply as to what suddenly led Bangladesh, which for several years did not allow the transit of Indian goods though its territory to Tripura, to agree to the proposal. “That is a very loaded question. I don’t want to get into why it did not happen earlier. Our government is reaching out proactively to all our neighbours and have received positive response from them, including Bangladesh,” said Mr. Chhibber.

Passenger movement between Kolkata and Dhaka have already been started.

Experts are of the opinion that financial benefits of the alternative route will not be limited to the reduction in transport expenditure. “Beyond cost saving, it will also increase our connectivity with our eastern neighbours as well as the Association of South East Asian Nations, Prithviraj Nath, policy analyst and centre head, Consumer Unity and Trust Society, Kolkata, told The Hindu.

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