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NITI Aayog to get India-Bangladesh rail project on track

Agartala, June 16 (IANS) NITI Aayog will hold a meeting in New Delhi on June 18 in a bid to break the deadlock on the proposed India-Bangladesh railway project, Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey said on Tuesday.

“NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog has called a meeting on Thursday (June 18) to break the deadlock on the 15-km Agartala-Akhaura rail project along Tripura,” Dey told reporters here.

Meanwhile, a senior state official said that the central government was “yet to provide funds for the project”.

NITI Aayog’s chief executive officer or special secretary will preside over the Delhi meeting, where officials of ministries of railway, development of northeastern region and external affairs and the Tripura government will participate.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina discussed the project during Modi’s official visit to Dhaka on June 6-7.

The Rs.575-crore ($90 million) railway project was finalised in January 2010 during the Bangladesh prime minister’s meeting with then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi.

“The central government is yet to provide required funds for the project. Land acquisition and subsequent works for the rail project to connect Tripura with Bangladesh will be delayed as a result,” a top state government official, who did not wish to be named, told IANS.

He said the state government recently approached the railway ministry again to allocate funds. “No funds were allocated in the railway budget for 2015-16, even for land acquisition,” the official said.

The project cost was earlier estimated at Rs.271 crore. In addition, Rs.302 crore was needed to acquire around 98 acres of land in India for laying the tracks.

“Work to lay the 15-km railway track to link Tripura capital Agartala with Bangladesh’s southeastern Akhaura city is yet to start although the two countries are very serious about executing the project,” a Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) official said.

State-owned Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) is expected to lay the tracks on both sides of the border, with five km falling in the Indian territory and the remaining in Bangladesh.

“The new railway connectivity between the northeastern state and Bangladesh will boost socio-economic, trade and business ties between the two countries,” the transport minister said.

The 1,650-km distance between Agartala and Kolkata would be reduced to only 515 km once the rail track is constructed through Bangladesh.

The NFR is the nodal agency for the project, for which alignment of rail line and other technical details were finalised by officials of both India and Bangladesh.