Kolkata/Agartala, June 1 (IANS) The trial run to start a Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala bus service began on Monday.
The proposed Agartala-Kolkata bus service via Dhaka is expected to facilitate visiting mainland Indian states for people of the mountainous northeastern region, reducing the distance by over 1,000 km.
Agartala via Guwahati is 1,650 km from Kolkata by road. But the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is only around 500 km.
An air-conditioned 45-seater Volvo bus, carrying a 10-member delegation of the West Bengal government, departed from Kolkata’s Salt Lake international bus terminus at around 9. a.m. on Monday.
The bus, likely to reach Bangladesh’s capital city of Dhaka by night, will start its return journey for Agartala on Tuesday morning.
“After the introduction of the bus service, Kolkata and Agartala would come closer to each other,” West Bengal transport department principal secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay told reporters in Kolkata before boarding the Dhaka bound bus.
“The people of some northeastern states would come nearer and would not have to travel the whole of the hilly surface road in the northeast to reach each other’s place,” he added.
“This is the first step to open economic windows in the south and south-east Asian region,” said Bandyopadhyay, who is heading the West Bengal delegation.
As part of a similar trial run, a Tripura Road Transport Corporation (TRTC) bus is expected to leave for Kolkata via Dhaka on Wednesday.
Tripura government officials earlier said a direct bus service between Agartala and Kolkata through Bangladesh is expected to be flagged-off during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh between June 6-7.
The cross-border bus service was approved at a recent meeting between Bangladesh Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader and his Indian counterpart Nitin Gadkari in New Delhi.
A Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) bus carrying Bangladeshi government officials undertook a trial run on the Dhaka-Sylhet-Tamabil-Dawki-Shillong-Guwahati route on May 22-26 to study the road conditions and other issues.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi are scheduled to flag off the Dhaka-Guwahati bus service during the latter’s two-day visit to the neighbouring country.
Tripura’s Transport Minister Manik Dey said the state government has been demanding direct bus services between Tripura and other northeastern states and Kolkata through Bangladesh for a long time for easy movement of people from the region.
“Since March 2010, a series of meetings were held between the officials of the ministries of external affairs and road transport and highways, and Tripura and West Bengal governments and concerned organisations,” Dey said.
“The last meeting in this regard was held at the road transport and highways ministry in New Delhi on May 14,” he added.
“Currently, the Agartala-Dhaka and Dhaka-Agartala bus services are being run for four days a week and the periodicity is likely to be increased due to the demand of the Kolkata-bound passengers,” a Tripura transport department official said.
The Agartala-Dhaka bus service started in September 2003. The Kolkata-Dhaka bus service was introduced in July 1999.
The BRTC, TRTC and the West Bengal Road Transport Corporation are now operating the Agartala-Dhaka, and Kolkata-Dhaka bus services.
Transportation via Bangladesh is much easier as road connectivity is a big factor for the mountainous northeastern states which share boundaries with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and China.
“For the people of Tripura, southern Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram, the Bangladesh route is the only secure, easier and cost effective option to go to Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai and other parts of India,” Barun Saha, a trader in Agartala, told IANS.