Agartala, Oct 9 (IANS): Five thousand tonnes of rice ferried in three small ships from Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh will arrive in Tripura via the Ashuganj river port in Bangladesh next week, an official said here on Thursday.
"The three ships carrying 5,000 tonnes of rice from Visakhapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh reached Kolkata port earlier this week and left Kolkata port for Ashuganj port two days back. The consignment is likely to reach the Bangladesh port on Sunday or Monday," a Food Corporation of India (FCI) official told IANS.
"From Ashuganj port, Bangladeshi trucks would carry the rice to FCI warehouses in Nandannagar near Agartala next week," the official said preferring anonymity.
This is the second consignment of rice. Earlier in August, 5,000 tonnes of rice had reached the Tripura capital through the same route.
Ashuganj port over the Meghna river in eastern Bangladesh is around 40 km from Agartala.
Tripura Food, Civil Supplies and finance Minister Bhanulal Saha said: "The rice is being ferried via Bangladesh to avoid the long and mountainous surface road up to Tripura via Assam and Meghalaya."
The eight northeastern states, including Sikkim, are largely dependent on Punjab, Haryana and other bigger states in India for foodgrains and essential commodities.
The minister said that train services in Tripura, Manipur, Mizoram and southern Assam have been stopped from Oct 1 as the tracks would be converted from metre gauge to broad gauge. This track conversion work undertaken by the Northeast Frontier Railways is scheduled to be completed in March 2016.
"In view of this, carrying foodgrains and other essentials from different parts of the country to the northeastern states of India via Bangladesh is very essential," he added.
Following diplomatic parleys, the Bangladesh government in the first phase agreed to transport 10,000 tonnes of foodgrains for Tripura across its territory without charging any duty under a special transit facility.
Earlier in 2012, Bangladesh had allowed ONGC to ferry heavy machinery, turbines and over dimensional cargos through Ashuganj port for the 726 MW Palatana mega power project in southern Tripura.
The Indian government had spent several millions of rupees to develop the port and related infrastructure.
After Tripura, it is likely that foodgrains will be ferried in a similar way to other northeastern states, the FCI official said.
The transportation via Bangladesh is much easier as road connectivity is a big factor for the mountainous northeastern states which are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China.
There is only a narrow land corridor to the northeastern region from India through Assam and West Bengal but this route passes through hilly terrain with steep gradients and multiple hairpin bends making plying of vehicles, specially loaded trucks, very difficult.
For instance, Agartala via Guwahati is 1,650 km from Kolkata and 2,637 km from New Delhi, while the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 350 km.