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Rains, landslides block lone Tripura highway

By The Assam Tribune

Agartala, June 25 (IANS): Tripura's lone National Highway (NH-8) was blocked after rains caused waterlogging, severely hitting the supply of essentials, foodgrain and transport fuel for the past one month.

Thousands of goods-ladden trucks and fuel tankers have been stranded for many weeks in between Lowerpoah and Churaibari on the Assam-Tripura inter-state border.

The Tripura government, rulling and opposition political parties, MPs, trading bodies and NGOs have sent scores of letters, memoranda and e-mails to Union Ministers, concerned departments and the Assam government to restore the vital highway, but the situation have remained unchanged.

"When Tripura is crying for restoration of its only National Highway (NH-8) and taken all out efforts to convince both Central and Assam governments about the dangerous position of the highway, both governments have remained indifferent," Tripura Transport Minister Manik Dey told reporters here on Saturday.

"All the MPs from Tripura met several times and written many letters to Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari requesting to renovate the lone National Highway on a war footing plan. We have taken up the matter with the Assam government. But the situation going bad to worse instead of improving," he added.

Tripura is fully dependent on the NH-8 for supply of essentials, foodgrain, fertilisers, petroleum products, construction materials and other commodities from different states of India besides ferrying passengers.

Following the shortages caused by the disruption of both rail and road traffic, prices of essential commodities has soared high in the state's markets.

An official of the food and civil supplies department said that almost all the 60 petrol pumps are ruing dry for the past one week causing unprecedented problems to the people.

Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy after visiting the troubled areas, also wrote to the Union Road Transport and Highway Minister seeking his immediate intervention.

Rulling Communist Party of India-Marxist's youth wing Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) earlier this week sent several hundred e-mails to Union Road Transport and Highways Minister requesting to take steps to restore the NH-8.

"We did not get any reply yet to our hundreds of e-mails to the central minister. We are planning to organise bigger agitation on the issue," DYFI Tripura state secretary Amal Chakraborty told reporters.

Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Tripura state President Biplab Deb held a meeting with the Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Assam's Public Works Department (Roads and Highways) Minister Parimal Shuklabaidya and both of them have assured him of all steps to restore road traffic in the region at the earliest, disrupted due to damage to the NH-8.

Tripura is the worst affected as the 585-km NH-8 -- its only connection with the rest of India through Assam and Meghalaya -- was severely damaged in Lowerpoah (Karimganj district of Assam) and Churaibari (in northern Tripura) adjoining southern Assam.

About a 20-km stretch of the NH-8 has turned into a marshy field after the downpour, waterlogging and unfavourable soil condition.

The situation worseded, as the train services in between Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and southern Assam and rest of India were cancelled for more more than 45 days due to the damage of railway tracks in mountainous Dima Hasao district (in Assam) due to rains and lanslides.

"We are trying to restore the rail line within a week. Our workers and engineers are working round-the-clock to restore rail service," Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) Chief Administrative Officer Ajit Pandit told IANS over phone.

He said: "We have roped in engineers from Austria as well as other parts of India to use their expertise at the trouble spots. We are using all options to open the vital railway route soon."

After removal of debris and repair of railway tracks, goods trains from Guwahati to Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and southern Assam were operated in two-three days on an experimental basis though conditions were still not conducive for running regular trains on the route.

"Clearing huge mudslides apart from boulders from a large portion of the tracks at Fidhing and 11 other places in Dima Hasao district (in Assam) is a huge task," Pandit added.

Huge landslides damaged railway tracks first on April 27. Rail traffic was restored on May 6, only to be disrupted again from May 13 in Dima Hasao district.

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