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True to its commitment, the Narendra Modi-government is making rapid progress in strengthening economic ties with Bangladesh, opening new opportunities for the North-East, especially Tripura.
Last week, India entered a preliminary agreement to supply 100 MW of electricity daily to Bangladesh from the gas-based ONGC Tripura Power Company (OTPC) at Rs. 5.50 a unit more or less identical to the weighted average generation tariff (Taka 6.50) in Bangladesh. India currently supplies 500 MW to Dhaka through the West Bengal border.
However, Bangladesh wanted a share of OTPC generation in exchange for their support in making the project a reality. Though Tripura always supported it, the decision was hanging fire till December 2014 when Modi assured meeting electricity demands of Bangladesh.
Accordingly a 65-km (18 km in India and 47 km in Bangladesh) cross-border transmission facility was ready by December 2015. Last week, the power ministers of Tripura and Bangladesh agreed on the tariff. It will now be sent for formal approval of the respective governments to start supplies.
The Indian gesture was not merely appreciated by Dhaka but in a quid pro quo, the Bangladesh Prime Minister initiated the process of allowing access to the Chittagong port. The deep-sea port is less than 100 km away from the Tripura border town of Sabroom.
According to sources in the Tripura government, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister allowed the State government to build a bridge on river Feni that demarcates the international boundary. Tendering process for the estimated Rs. 100 crore project is initiated. The decision can catapult the natural gas-rich Tripura into a major investment destination in India.
In a parallel development, Dhaka has gone a step ahead in implementing the proposed rail connectivity between Agartala and Akhaura junction in Bangladesh. Two-third of the 15-km rail project is in Bangladesh and Dhaka has already acquired land for the same.
Once implemented it will be a major fillip to ensure movement of passengers and goods between the two nations. Bangladesh has already granted India road transit facility through its territories to Agartala under the Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicles agreement.
This will reduce the road travel distance by less than half from the existing over 1,500 km through the chicken’s neck.
Meanwhile, the Indian Railways is poised to complete Rs. 7,751 crore project to reach broad-gauge rail connectivity to Agartala by March 31, 2016. Tripura is now connected by meter gauge line. Broad-gauge connectivity will ensure seamless movement of cargo between Tripura and the rest of the nation. It will also reduce the travelling time through the chicken’s neck, drastically.
The 227-km rail line, that passes through picturesque mountains in North Tripura, from Badarpur in Assam to Agartala is nearing completion and will witness a trial run on January 13. By March 31, 2017, the line will be extended to the border town of Sabroom to ensure future movement of cross-border cargo.
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