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Indo-Bangla rail link, border 'haats' plan welcomed

Agartala, Feb 18 (IANS) Political leaders in Tripura and traders' forums have hailed the pact between India and Bangladesh to start work on laying the Agartala-Akhaurah new rail link and setting up of border 'haats' (bazaars) in the northeastern states.

India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni signed agreements in Dhaka Saturday and expressed readiness to start work on laying tracks for the Akhaurah (Bangladesh) - Agartala (Tripura, India) rail link.

The two leaders have also decided to amend the double taxation avoidance treaty, and open additional border 'haats' along the international border in Tripura and Meghalaya.

"The two foreign ministers have signed the pacts to start the works for both the railway line and the border 'haats'," Tripura industries and commerce minister Jitendra Chowdhury told IANS Monday.

He said: "The Tripura government's task for the railway link between the state capital Agartala and the Bangladesh railway station at Akhaurah is almost over. We are always ready to extend whatever support is required for the project."

He said work would start next month for two 'haats' at Kasba and Srinagar in western Tripura.

The new railway project to connect the two neighbouring countries was decided by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina during her visit to India in January 2010.

The tracks are expected to cost Rs.331 crore. India will build a 15-km railway track linking Agartala with Akhaurah, an important railway junction well connected to the Chittagong international port, resource-rich Sylhet and capital Dhaka.

Of the 15-km rail line, five km of track falls in Indian territory -- the remaining will be in Bangladesh.

Akhaura was the rail head for Agartala, prior to 1947, and served as a major link between Chittagong port and Tripura.

With this new rail link, Tripura would become the second state in India to be connected through rail with Bangladesh.

West Bengal is the only state in India which is connected by railway at present.

Ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist spokesman Gautam Das, expert on Bangladesh affairs, said: "The rail connectivity linking northeastern states and Bangladesh would immensely help the land-locked northeastern states, which share a 1,880-km border with Bangladesh.

Tripura Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Makhan Lal Debnath said border 'haats' are a unique plan to improve economic activities among the border people of the two neighbours, and foster more friendly ties between the two nations.

Two 'border haats' (bazars) were set up in Meghalaya in 2011 on a pilot basis and these are now operational.

The 'border haats' would be allowed to sell local agricultural and horticultural products, spices, minor forest products (excluding timber), fresh and dry fish, dairy and poultry products, cottage industry items, wooden furniture, handloom and handicraft items.

Indo Asian News Service

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