Agartala, May 29 (IANS): The trial run of a bus service between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh will be held on June 1-3, a minister said here on Friday.
"As a part of the trial run, a bus carrying West Bengal government officials would start from Kolkata on June 1. It will reach Agartala via Bangladesh on June 2 and would return the next day," Transport Minister Manik Dey told reporters.
He said West Bengal government's Principal Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, who will lead the officials during the trial run, informed Tripura's Transport Secretary Samarjit Bhowmik about this in a letter.
He said: "We have asked the Central government to allow the Tripura government to conduct a similar trial from Agartala to Kolkata via Bangladesh."
Tripura's Governor Tathagata Roy earlier said that a direct bus service between Agartala and Kolkata through Bangladesh is expected to be finalised during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Dhaka on June 6-7.
He said it would "open a new era in the India-Bangladesh relations" and that "the people of Tripura and other northeastern States would be greatly benefited".
Tripura's Transport Minister said the Tripura government has been demanding direct bus services between Tripura and other northeastern states and Kolkata through Bangladesh for easy movement of people of the region.
"Since March 2010, a series of meetings were held between the officials of external affairs, road transport and highways ministries, Tripura and West Bengal governments and concerned organisations. The last meeting in this regard was held in the road transport and highways ministry in New Delhi on May 14," Dey added.
"Currently, the Agartala-Dhaka and Dhaka-Agartala bus services are being run four days a week and the periodicity is likely to be increased due to the demand of the Kolkata-bound passengers," a Tripura Transport Department official said.
The Agartala-Dhaka bus service started in September 2003. The Kolkata-Dhaka bus service was introduced in July 1999.
The Bangladesh government-run Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation, the Tripura government owned Tripura Road Transport Corporation and the West Bengal's West Bengal Road Transport Corporation are now operating the Agartala-Dhaka, and Kolkata-Dhaka bus services.
To introduce the Guwahati-Shillong-Dhaka bus service, trial runs were conducted twice from Assam's main city of Guwahati.
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.
Before the partition of the country in 1947, the routes of the then East Bengal (now Bangladesh) had been used to ferry men and material to and from northeast India.
"For the people of Tripura, southern Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, the Bangladeshi route is the only secured, easier and cost effective option to go to Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai and other parts of India as road, rail and air journeys from this hilly region are terrible," Barun Saha, a trader in Agartala, told IANS.
Several hundred passengers, including seriously ill patients, job seekers, students, even bridegrooms and tourists face problems in going to Kolkata and other parts of India in view of the non-availability of air tickets for want of aircraft.
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 600 km.
The northeastern States of Tripura (856 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Mizoram (318 km) and Assam (263 km) share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh.