Essential commodities and fuel on trucks waiting to be transported to Tripura are stuck, literally, on National Highway 8 after incessant rains damaged many portions of the arterial road, internet sources report .
The lack of movement of vehicles on the Assam-Agartala National Highway has caused widespread distress across the State, with reports claiming that petrol prices have shot up to Rs. 250 per litre in some areas of the State.
Here’s the latest on the crisis:
What caused the damage to the National Highway?
The long stretch of the Assam-Agartala (NH 8) at Lowerpoa in Karimganj district of Assam was badly damaged during floods and thousands of trucks carrying essential commodities and fuel are stranded. Tripura Revenue and PWD Minister Badal Chowdhury said the National Highway is almost closed.
What is the current situation? Has there been any improvement in road conditions?
Hundreds of trucks have been stranded for almost a month, making it difficult to transport supplies to Tripura. The Tripura government has imposed rationing in the use of fuel. State minister for Food and Civil Supplies, Bhanu Lal Saha Saha, said there is buffer stock of food grains for 55 days.
All petrol pumps in the State have been instructed not to sell fuel worth more than Rs. 200 at a time to vehicles. Tripura officials have said that around 5,000 transport vehicles are stranded on the Assam side.
Officials also fear a possible shortage of essential commodities, if the problem persists for another week. The transport workers are reportedly suffering from food and water shortage.
How is the government tackling the issue?
The revised Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol (IWTTP) with the provision of third-country access was formally inaugurated on June 16 by Bangladesh Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan.
He inaugurated the transit facility at Ashuganj port.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar had asked officials to take initiatives in transporting essential goods through Bangladesh. “Initiatives have been taken to bring the essential commodities, including fuel and foodgrains, by using the waterways of Bangladesh through Ashuganj port on the river Meghna,” Mr. Chowdhury told reporters.
The revised IWTTP also gives India and Bangladesh the right to use each other’s territory for transiting goods to third countries. Bangladesh can thus use Indian territory to transit goods to Nepal and Bhutan while India can access Myanmar via Bangladesh.
In 2012, Bangladesh allowed India to carry over-sized and heavy machines for India’s Palatna power project by using this water route and Ashuganj port free of cost. The Assam government has roped in the National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation to tackle the problem.
Has the government given any timeframe for the construction of the road?
Mr. Chowdhury said the situation would improve within a week as trucks have started entering the State through an alternative route via Kathaltali of Assam in Karimganj district.