Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads to Bangladesh this weekend and the signing of the land boundary agreement is going to be the showpiece of the visit.
But today, a bus was set off on a trial run from Kolkata that will traverse across Bangladesh all the way to Agartala in Tripura. For those who live in Bengal and Tripura and the rest of the northeast, this is no less historic.
“In order to reach Kolkata from Agartala, the patients, the middle class and lower middle class people who can’t afford plane fare they have to traverse the whole of the northeast and cover about 1600 km, pay a huge amount of money to reach a hospital in Kolkata or a higher education institute,” said Alapan Bandopadhyay, Principal Secretary, West Bengal.
The distance of 1600 kilometres will now come down to just over 500. The travel time too will be reduced to 15 hours, the ticket price will come down to around Rs. 1800 and the move will also have huge potential for both Bangladesh and India. Today passengers, tomorrow cargo and in future even a bus service to Bangkok.
“Not only Tripura, the whole of the northeast gets opened up. More interestingly, this also gives rise to the hope that via Tripura, maybe the other expanses of south and southeast Asia also come nearer to your door step,” said Mr Bandopadhyay, adding, “I am entirely sure this is not just a bus ride. This is a historic connect building.”
There is also an emotive angle, the strengthening of ties between Bengali speaking people separated by history and geography. Passengers on the trial run are most excited at the prospect of crossing the Padma River at Goalondo Ghat, immortalised by Rabindranath Tagore and others in literature.
When the bus service is announced in Dhaka over the weekend, the prime ministers of two countries will not only flag off a bus service, they will also be giving look east and act east a whole new paradigm.