news Monday, October 20, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute| October 20, 2014| 06.58 pm IST The second consignment of 5,000 tonnes of rice ferried in three small ships from Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh started arriving in Tripura via Bangladesh Monday, officials said. "The three ships carrying a total of 5,000 tonnes of rice from Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh reached Kolkata port last week and then arrived at Ashuganj port in (eastern) Bangladesh a few days back," Food Corporation of India (FCI) official Nilanjan Chowdhury told IANS. He said: "From Ashuganj port, Bangladeshi trucks started ferrying the rice to FCI warehouses in Nandannagar near Agartala from Monday. During the next few days, the entire 5,000 tonnes of rice would be transported to the FCI godowns (warehouses)." This is the second consignment of rice to have reached Agartala after transiting through Bangladesh. Earlier in August, 5,000 tonnes of rice reached the Tripura capital through the same route. Ashuganj port over the Meghna river in eastern Bangladesh is around 40 km from Agartala. Chowdhury said: "The FCI had recently floated tenders to carry another 10,000 tonnes of rice from Kolkata via Bangladesh." Tripura Food, Civil Supplies and Finance Minister Bhanulal Saha said: "The rice is being ferried via Bangladesh to avoid the long and mountainous surface road up to Tripura via Assam and Meghalaya. The eight northeastern states, including Sikkim, are largely dependent on Punjab, Haryana and other bigger states in India for foodgrains and essential commodities. The minister said train services in Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam have been suspended from Oct 1 for track conversion. This work undertaken by the Northeast Frontier Railways is scheduled to be completed March 2016. "In view of this, carrying food grains and other essentials from different parts of the country to the northeastern states of India via Bangladesh is very essential," he added. Following diplomatic parleys, the Bangladesh government in the first phase agreed to transport 10,000 tonnes of foodgrains for Tripura across its territory without charging any duty under a special transit facility. Earlier in 2012, Bangladesh had allowed state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation to ferry heavy machinery, turbines and over-dimensional cargoes through Ashuganj port for the 726 MW Palatana mega power project in southern Tripura. The Indian government had spent several millions of rupees to develop the Ashuganj port and related infrastructure. After Tripura, it is likely that foodgrains will be ferried in a similar way to other northeastern states, the FCI official said. The transportation via Bangladesh is much easier as road connectivity is a big factor for the mountainous northeastern states which are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China. There is only a narrow land corridor to the northeastern region from India through Assam and West Bengal but this route passes through hilly terrain with steep gradients and multiple hairpin bends making plying of vehicles, specially loaded trucks, very difficult. For instance, Agartala via Guwahati is 1,650 km from Kolkata by road and 2,637 km from New Delhi, while the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 350 km. With IANS

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