FOOD Corporation of India (FCI) will ferry 10,000 tonnes of rice to Tripura via Bangladesh this week as train services have been stopped in the southern part of the northeast region of India due to gauge conversion, a media report said.
Train services in Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam have been suspended for...two-phase track conversion from metre-gauge to broad-gauge being undertaken by the Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) and scheduled to end in March 2016.
The first phase, covering a 210-km route -- Lumding-Silchar (in southern Assam) line -- has been completed and the inaugural goods train carrying about 2,300 tonnes of potatoes from West Bengal reached Silchar on March 27.
"The Food Corporation of India (FCI) informed us that it will transport another 10,000 tonnes of rice for Tripura via Bangladesh this week," Tripura food and civil supplies minister Bhanulal Saha was quoted as telling in a news report.
An FCI official said the new consignment of rice is expected to start reaching Tripura on March 31 or on April 1.
The FCI last year ferried 10,000 tonnes of rice in two phases to Tripura from Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh via Bangladesh.
A number of ships carried the rice from Visakhapatnam port to Kolkata port, then to Ashuganj port in (eastern) Bangladesh. From Ashuganj port, Bangladeshi trucks ferried the rice to FCI warehouses in Nandannagar near Agartala.
The FCI has decided to carry a total of 35,000 tonnes of rice in different phases for Tripura via Bangladesh by this year's end.
The eight northeastern states, including Sikkim, are largely dependent on Punjab, Haryana and other larger states in India for food grains and essential commodities.
The central government has also floated bids to import rice from Myanmar for Manipur and Mizoram.
In 2012, Bangladesh government 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.
Transportation via Bangladesh is much easier as road connectivity is a big factor for the mountainous northeastern states which share boundaries with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and China.Thus, 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.