Indraneel Bhowmik, Asst. Prof. Women’s College, Agartala &
routes for public transport due to security reasons. The village roads as found in
the rural development blocks and the AD...
even NEC can be source for it. This project even merits the constitution of an
autonomous Tripura Road Fund which can be g...
countries. So, it is presumed that the official border trade between Bangladesh
and Tripura as well as the entire North Ea...
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New Roads To Development


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New Roads To Development

  1. 1. NEW ROADS TO DEVELOPMENT Indraneel Bhowmik, Asst. Prof. Women’s College, Agartala & Jayanta Bhattacharya, Bureau Chief of PTI, Agartala Tripura’s march towards development has been severely handicapped by its landlocked nature. Bordered by Bangladesh in three sides our connectivity to the main land is just through the single corridor NH-44, popularly known as the Assam Agartala Road. This highway runs for 333 kms in the state from Sabroom, in the southernmost fringe to Churaibari, the tiny town bordering Assam. This lifeline of Tripura passes through all the four districts of the state touching three district capitals including the state capital Agartala. Tripura also has a network of 454 kms under the category of major district roads(MDR) which links all other subdivisions and often originates from the national highway. Moreover, there are 1543 kms of other district roads (ODR) and 582 kms of Indo- Bangladesh Border roads (IBBR) which is under the operational control of the Border Roads Organization. The village roads (VR) in the state are categorised under two heads from the context of construction and maintenance- Rural Development Department/ Autonomous District Council and Public Works Department. Of the total 12681 kms of village roads, 7912 kms are under RD/ADC while the remaining 4769 kms are catered by PWD. In all, the state boasts of 15,593 kms of road. However, in terms of quality of the roads, it is the earthen category that maximizes with 8957 kms, i.e., 57.44%. The Black topped roads have a network of 3762 kms, 24.13% while Brick soled road comprises of 2874 kms thus having a share of 18.43%. Naturally it is evident that black topped coating exist in the highways and district roads, while majority of the village roads are made of earth, called ‘kutchcha’ in the local parlance. The importance of roads in connecting the vast rural areas of India to form the national market and economy cannot be overstated and Tripura is no exception. Connectivity provided by roads is perhaps the single most important determinant of well being and the quality of life of people living in an urban area. The efficiency of the innumerable government programmes aimed at rural development, employment generation, and local industrialization is, to large extent, determined by the connectivity provided by roads. There is a considerable body of evidence that demonstrates the links between rural road investment, decline in poverty, and improvement in the quality of life. Road investment contributed directly to the growth of agricultural output, increased use of fertilizer and commercial bank expansion. Improvements in rural roads are positively correlated with decline in poverty. The potential value in improving of rural connectivity especially in the agricultural states is revealed by the large differences between mandi and farm gate prices. Tripura geographically is pear shaped and the national highway runs through the middle bisecting the area in almost two equal parts. The major district roads (e.g- Kumarghat to Kailashahar) branches from the NH-44 and the other district roads (Kailashahar to Dharmanagar via Unokoti) break off further from these MDRs. The road adjacent to our capital from Akhaura to Lankamura is an example of the border roads, however it is to be remembered that the border roads are in possession of the security forces and they may at times close these Paper Presented at the National Seminar held in Tripura University on the NER- VISION 2020 in Dec, 2005
  2. 2. routes for public transport due to security reasons. The village roads as found in the rural development blocks and the ADC villages are often constructed under the PMGSY. The various nature of the existing road network testifies to the fact that there is an excessive dependence on the national highway for movement of both passengers and freight. The tracks travelled are long, tiring and expensive (e.g. - Ariel distance between Kamalpur and Khowai is hardly 25 kms whereas one has to travel more than 80 kms and that too at specified hours availing the military escorts between Ambassa and Chakmaghat. This is sheer wastage of resources but cannot be avoided due to non- economic factors. The state administration is presently categorised into four districts, seventeen subdivisions, and forty rural development blocks. This paper visualises a state where a ring road will exist thereby facilitating movement from one area to other without having to track the national highways. A ring road connecting the following block headquarters can be constructed – Mohanpur(W)—Hezamara(W)---Khowai(W)---Salema(D)---Gournagar {viaFatikroy}(N)---Kadamtala(N)---Damchherra(N)---Dasda(N)--- Jampui(N)---Chhamanu(D)---Damboornagar(D)---Karbook(S)--- Rupaichhari(S)---Satchand(S)---Hrishyamukh(S)---Rajnagar(S)--- Kathalia(W)--- Baxanagar(W)---Bishalgarh(W)- Dukli(W)---Mohanpur(W). It is to be noted that presently there exists connectivity among many areas of the proposed road, but the condition of these are miserable. Narrow, uneven, broken are the nature of the roads whatever it exists. Added to it is the threat from the insurgents. Vehicular traffic is hardly existent. The numbers stand further reduced due to lack of maintenance. The construction of such a state highway will deliver several benefits namely- • Freight charges will come down- with less roads to cover and non congested traffic; • Travelling will be pleasant- arduous hours in the roads due to escort system will reduce; • Generation of employment opportunities- construction and maintenance of the road; • Ensure better living standards in the rural areas- easy access to markets and better prices for agricultural produce; • Attract Investment from other states and countries; • Help in controlling the insurgent activities- government can be more vigilant; • Boost the existing investment opportunities like- rubber, tea, fruits, handicrafts & handlooms, etc; • Disperse the skewed distribution of vehicles concentration in West district, presently 82% of the vehicles in the state are registered in the West district; and • Promote Tripura as a destination for ecotourism. This ring road will not just connect the block headquarters but will also be effective in easing out the burden on the national highway. The Ring Road can be built as a state highway with financial assistance from DONER agencies, Paper Presented at the National Seminar held in Tripura University on the NER- VISION 2020 in Dec, 2005
  3. 3. even NEC can be source for it. This project even merits the constitution of an autonomous Tripura Road Fund which can be generated by- • Amounts received from the Central Road Fund under the Central Road Fund Act, 2000; • A certain percent of the tax collected by the state government under the motor vehicles taxation act; • All fees, fines and other amount collected by the traffic authorities in the state • User fees; • Income from treasury operations; and • Grants and loans or advances from the state and central government. Interestingly, such a road will also be near to the state’s perimeter and be an impetus to not just intra state movement but also with the neighbours. The Mizo speaking population in the Jampui hills can access better communication with Mizoram. MDRs and ODRs can supplement this state highway by connecting the road with particular points of entry and exit with Mizoram and Assam. This road will of course be a great fillip to the international trade with Bangladesh. The number of designated Land Customs Centres, seven presently, can increase. Bangla Tripura communications including Roads Railways and Ports Tripura is one of the closest neighbours of Bangladesh with whom we share 85% of our border and our state is also girded by the country in three sides. Only a small portion of Tripura in northern side has border which is the entry-exit point of the state through roadways. But, was Tripura a land locked state? No, the partition of the country in 1947 is mainly for that. The roadways communication inside the princely Tripura was very poor in terms of infra structure development. The entire communication was through then East Bengal. If anybody looks at the pre-partition map would find that all the major towns in Tripura is located within about ten km radius of East Bengal. Like opposite of Agartala is Akhaura and Brahmanbaria, Against Sonamura is Comilla and Against Kailashahar is Moulavibazaar etc. So in case of going to Kailashahar from Agartala one cought the train from Akhaura to Moulavibazar and then eight to ten k.m by roadways to reach there. So, there is need of restoration of the pre-partition communication map for faster and easier flow of traffic and boost the border trade between the two regions. Before the partition of the country the transport network in this region was integrated system radiating outwards from international sea port of Kolkata and Chittagong. The inland water transport system also served parts of India, particularly the eastern parts with links to the ports of Kolkata and Chittagong. Before the partition there was an integrated transportation system to support an integrated single economy. “The decline in economic interactions within the sub-region in turn led to a de-integration of the transport system. In order to promote cooperation for re-integrating the transport system, it is necessary to create new economic complementaries among the countries of the sub-region” The agreement for South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) has come into force from 1st Jan, this year which provides for free trade of goods among the SAARC Paper Presented at the National Seminar held in Tripura University on the NER- VISION 2020 in Dec, 2005
  4. 4. countries. So, it is presumed that the official border trade between Bangladesh and Tripura as well as the entire North East region is likely to enhance in near future. If the North-East is the gate way to the South Asian Countries The Tripura is the gateway to the North-East. So, it is the need of the hour to formulate a comprehensive and common Transport policy for India and Bangladesh on the basis of sub-regional transport network and the following issues may be resolved as a mark of confidence building measure. 1) To permit Indian goods to be transported through Bangladesh to and from India’s North East. 2) To allow north eastern bordering states to use Chittagong port and allow Bangladesh districts to use Kolkata , Haldia and upcoming Kulpi ports. 3) To upgrade all meter gauge railway track into broad gauge track in N-E region and in Bangladesh. Particularly the capitals of N-E states should be connected by BG track with Dhaka and Chittagong. 4) Liberalisation of Visa system of both the countries. As an welcome move Dhaka–Agartala bus service was introduced in September, 2003. But we need a direct Agartala-Kolkata bus service through Bangladesh. The existing Waterways Transport System through Bangladesh between Karimganj in Assam near North Tripura and Kolkata is needed to be strengthened. Presently this waterways route is available for only about six months in a year. Some dredging is needed in Bangladesh side, in the upper reaches starting from Karimganj side in order to make this route available for a longer duration. The existing trade agreement with Bangladesh does not provide for a multimodal transportation of goods from India to Bangladesh (Involving road transportation from Agartala to Ashuganj and Ashuganj onward by river) and vice-versa. This requires amendment of Article –V111 of the trade agreement. The river port is about 30 km from Agartala which remains open throughout the year. References- 1. Economic Review of Tripura,2003-04, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Planning Department, Govt. of Tripura 2. Pramod Agarwal and Arun Agarwal; Implementing a Rural Roads Project in Madhya Pradesh, India Infrastructure Report 2004, OUP 3. Hans Binswanger, Shahidur Khandker and Mark Rosenzweig; ‘How Infrastructure and Financial Institutions Affect Agricultural Output and Investment in India’; Journal of Development Economics, Vol-41, 1993 4. Jayanta Bhattacharya, Bangladesh India Communications including Roads Railways and Ports 5. Dr Rahamatullah, Surface Transport Links Between North East India and Bangladesh Paper Presented at the National Seminar held in Tripura University on the NER- VISION 2020 in Dec, 2005