Tripura is facing a severe shortage of essential items, including fuel, as the arterial road – National Highway (NH) 8 – linking the State with the rest of the country has been badly damaged during the recent rainfall. And with the suspension of the rail service since October last year due to gauge conversion works in southern Assam, road transport is the only mode to carry the essential goods.
However, the recent rains have severely damaged the highway, with a 12-km stretch on NH-8 between Lower Powa in Assam and Churaibari in northern Tripura turning virtually into a muddy paddy field. The 585 km NH-8 is the only road link to land-locked Tripura with the rest of the country via Assam and Meghalaya.
According to Tripura government officials, the national highway is badly damaged and consequently thousands of oil tankers, goods-laden trucks and other vehicles have been stranded in Lower Powa area.
Tripura’s Food and Civil Supplies Department Director and Special Secretary Soumitra Bandopadhayay told a news agency: ‘The State government is in touch with the Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MRT&H) as well as the Assam government to ensure plying of goods-laden trucks and oil tankers.’
Tripura Chief Secretary YP Singh is also reported to be in regular touch with the MRT&H for restoring normal traffic on the national highway.
Truckers and drivers of small vehicles are intermittently organising road blockades, demanding that the condition of the highway be improved.
Tripura PWD minister Badal Choudhury and Lok Sabha member Sankar Prasad Datta have visited the damaged NH-8 and urged the Central and Assam governments to repair the road.
‘Our MPs, Chief Minister and I met RT&H Minister Nitin Gadkari on a number of occasions, written many letters and telephonically requested several times to take urgent steps to improve the roads, but everything went in vain,’ Choudhury told reporters.
The Assam and Tripura units of Communist Party of India-Marxists (CPI-M) have been jointly organising stirs since August for improving the national highway.
The Congress, Tripura’s principal opposition party, organised road blockades on 28th September for two-hours at 11 places on NH-8, demanding proper maintenance of the crucial road.
Tripura shares a 53-km border with Assam, 109-km border with Mizoram and an 856 km border with Bangladesh.
Agartala via Guwahati is 1,650 km from Kolkata by road and 2,637 km from New Delhi, while the distance between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh is just about 620 km.