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Agartala: Landlocked Tripura has gained massive momentum with the opening of the Agartala (Tripura) - Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway link, heralding a new era for traders in the state.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, jointly inaugurated this significant infrastructure project, known as the Agartala-Akhaura railway. It is poised to drastically reduce travel time between Agartala and Kolkata, cutting it down from 31 hours to just 10 hours.
The railway line spans a distance of 12.24 km, with 5.46 km in Indian territory in Tripura and the remaining 6.78 km in the Akhauraupa-zilla of the Brahmanbaria district in Bangladesh. The journey will commence from Agartala, progress to Nischintapur, which lies on the Indian-Bangladesh border and serves as the point for immigration checks. Subsequently, the first station on the Bangladeshi side will be Gangasagar.
This development is anticipated to have a positive impact on tourism, trade, and the facilitation of people-to-people exchanges between the two nations.
However, there is some uncertainty about how much it will benefit traders in Battala Market, perhaps the second largest market near the Bangladesh border in Tripura.
Secretary of the India Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce, Tripura Chapter, Sujit Roy, said that this initiative will be helpful for traders, making it much easier to transport goods in a shorter period and at a lower cost.
“The new beginning will be beneficial for the traders in the state. It will be very easy to bring the goods in a short time of period with a very low cost”, he said.
Dilip Deb, a fish trader, mentioned that there will be some adjustments in business when the Agartala-Akhaura railway link opens for trade.
"We usually import fish through the Integrated Check Post. We place an order a day before and receive it the next day. However, if we import fish via train, it will be more challenging for us, as the fish comes from villages in Bangladesh. I don’t think it would be that beneficial for traders, especially for fish imports," he explained.
The famous Bangladesh hilsa is a best-selling fish in the entire Northeast.
Another trader, Subhas Das, believes that the new route will open up a new avenue for trade, but it may also present some challenges.
"The Agartala-Akhaura railway link is very close to Agartala city and the largest market in the state. However, we are not sure what kind of goods we can import or export. Now, it depends on the government. We will wait for the government's decision, hoping for the best," he added.
Das’s reservations may vanish once the larger picture of this connectivity becomes clearer. The rail link will not only make the Northeast connected to the rest of India by rail, but Tripura will be another port of call for the region. Till now the Northeast’s gateway has been Assam capital Guwahati which is connected through rail and road through the narrow Chicken Neck.
The new railway link, as Prime Minister Modi pointed out, will be a game-changer for the entire region.