AGARTALA, Sept 28: With the tiol Highway-8 (NH-8), the lifeline of the Tripura, being badly affected due to incessant rainfall, there is a severe shortage of essentials and transport fuel for one month.
The 585 km NH-8 is the only surface link to connect land-locked Tripura with the rest of the country via Assam and Meghalaya.
About 12-km stretch between Lower Powa in Assam and Churaibari in northern Tripura has almost turned into a muddy paddy field.
The Assam and Tripura units of Communist Party of India-Marxists (CPI-M) have been jointly organising agitations for one month for better condition of the vital roads. Main opposition Congress on Monday organised road blockades for two-hours at 11 places in NH-8, demanding urgent maintence of the crucial roads.
Tripura Pradesh Congress President Birajit Sinha, working president Ashish Saha and opposition leader Sudip Roy Barman led the agitation on Monday morning.
“The union road transport and highways ministry (MRT&H) last year had authorised Assam and Tripura PWDs to do maintence in their respective portions of the NH-8. Earlier the job had been performed by the Border Road Organisations under the MRT&H (Road Transport and Highways Ministry),” a Tripura PWD official said.
“An Odisha-based private road construction firm has started works to improve the NH-8 and the maintence works has to be completed by March 2015. Subsequently, they stopped work for shortage of stone chips referring to Supreme Court’s restriction on mining of stones in the northeast India,”
According to Tripura government officials, the tiol highway is badly damaged and consequently thousands of oil tankers, goods-laden trucks and other vehicles have been stranded in Lower Powa areas in southern Assam.
Food and Civil Supplies Department Director and Special Secretary Soumitra Bandopadhayay said, “The state government is in touch with the MRT&H as well as the Assam government to ensure plying of goods laden trucks and oil tankers.”
Tripura Chief Secretary Y.P. Singh was in regular contact with the MRT&H to restore normal traffic.
Truckers and drivers of small vehicles intermittently organise road blockades, demanding that the condition of the highway should be improved.
Tripura PWD minister Badal Choudhury and Lok Sabha member Sankar Prasad Datta have visited the damaged NH-8 and urged the central and Assam governments to restore the roads.
“Our MPs, chief minister, myself on a number of occasions met MRT&H minister Nitin Gadkari, written many letters and telephonically requested several times to take urgent steps to improve the roads, but everything went in vain,” Choudhury told reporters. Tripura is dependent on other states for essentials, food grains, transport fuel and cooking gas.
As the rail service has been stopped since October last year due to gauge conversion works in southern Assam, surface transport is the only mode to carry the essentials.
The government-owned Food Corporation of India (FCI) last year and this year had ferried 35,000 tonnes of rice in several phases to Tripura from Visakhapatm port in Andhra Pradesh and Kolkata via Bangladesh.
Transportation via Bangladesh is much easier as road connectivity is a major issue for the mountainous northeastern states which share boundaries with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and Chi.
There is only a rrow land corridor to the northeastern region through Assam and West Bengal but this route passes through hilly terrain with steep gradients and multiple hairpin bends, making plying of vehicles, especially loaded trucks, very difficult.
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 620 km. Tripura shares a 53-km border with Assam, 109 km with Mizoram and a 856 km border with Bangladesh. (IANS)