Tripura CM pitches for rail links for growth of northeast region

"Early completion of the proposed 15-km Agartala-Akhaura rail link and rail connectivity with Bangladesh needs to be expedited," Sarkar said at the 66th plenary meeting of the North Eastern Council (NEC) in New Delhi.

He said: "Access to Chittagong port in Bangladesh via Tripura's border town of Sabroom -- a distance of only 75 km -- needs to be ensured as early as possible. The survey and execution of rail link between Agartala and Kalay in Myanmar also needs to be taken up with all seriousness."

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mazibul Hoque jointly laid the foundation stone for the Agartala (India)-Akhaura (Bangladesh) railway project here on July 31 last year.

The project was finalised in January 2010 during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's meeting with her Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. Land acquisition is now underway in Tripura for the project.

The Tripura Chief Minister said that the per-capita income in the northeastern states is low as compared to the national level. There is low production and productivity in agriculture and allied sectors, which are the primary source of income and occupation in the region.

Sarkar said the NEC, while preparing the regional plan, should suggest suitable strategies to overcome constraints faced by the northeast, including low industrialisation, limited presence of public sector undertakings, constraints on road, rail, air and telecommunication connectivity, underutilisation of power generation capacity, transmission and distribution, and insurgency.

Instead of adopting a piecemeal approach, the Chief Minister said, the council should prepare a realisable long-term comprehensive developmental plan.

Demanding more budget for the regional body, the Chief Minister said the NEC has proposed an outlay of Rs 925 crore for 2017-18.

"This allocation is too small to take care of the ongoing incomplete projects, leaving hardly any amount for projects in the pipeline."

"In order to address regional disparity, the NEC should be adequately funded and its budget during the current fiscal be substantially enhanced to at least partly compensate for the discontinued Special Plan Assistance that was provided through the Planning Commission to Special Category States," Sarkar added.

Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and eight northeastern states are categorised as Special Category States.

All the Governors and Chief Ministers of the eight northeastern states are members of the NEC, responsible for regional planning and undertaking developmental and infrastructural projects.