New Delhi: While recommending development of gauge compatibility between the Indian and Bangladeshi railways, a key study has called for exploration of a new project connecting the capital cities of the north-eastern states with Dhaka and Chittagong through broad gauge railway networks.
An Observer Research Foundation (ORF) study, “India-Bangladesh Connectivity: Possibilities and Challenges”, has recommended modernisation of ports and improvements in connecting the ports by road or railways. It suggested enhancement of the frequency of Kolkata-Dhaka roadways and its extension to Agartala.
Besides encouraging large-scale transportation of goods through Bangladesh to the north-eastern region, the report has recommended enhancement of connectivity through waterways.
The report has suggested introduction of short-term work permits on an experimental basis, easing of visa restrictions, cross-border vehicular movement and transforming borders into space for opportunities. The suggestion for a free movement of people is not to suggest making the border more porous, but to allow cross-border job and commerce-related movement of workers, traders, academics, businessmen, patients and groups of people having connection to cultural and religious traditions in the other country.
There is, however, a lot of scope for the north-eastern region to become an interconnected region with and through Bangladesh, if road and rail linkages are established and those which existed previously, are revived. Inter-connection of this contiguous zone through rail and road links will not only bring economic gains, but also increase the mobility of the common people and enhance trust on both sides of the border, the report said.
It is worth noting that the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) is now laying tracks to connect Tripura’s southernmost border town of Sabroom. From Sabroom, the Chittagong international sea port is a mere 72 km away. The Indian Railway Construction Company (IRCON) is laying the new railway tracks on both sides of the border. Of the 15-km rail line, a length of five km of tracks falls within Indian territory.
The report has also dealt with the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh, describing it as a major concern for India. Though migration across the border is well acknowledged, there is lack of authentic data on the exact number of people who have migrated. Some studies claim that the number runs into millions. This has caused serious problems of security and social tension in many parts of India, especially in the North-east, the report said.
The illegal migration has disturbed the demography in some of the Indian border-states and has created serious ethnic tensions. Of late, Bangladesh has also been claiming the existence of illegal migrants from India, the report said.
Interestingly, quoting media reports, the report claimed that Indians living illegally in Bangladesh are remitting billions of dollars to India. According to some Bangladeshi authors, the figure is as high as 500,000 Indians sending about USD 3,716 million. People migrating to Bangladesh illegally, it is claimed, are from West Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura and Mizoram.
About border fencing, the report said the India-Bangladesh border cannot be fenced because the terrain – at places riverine or hilly or marshy – does not permit construction of fences.
About Observer Research Foundation (ORF)
Observer Research Foundation is said to be conceived and supported by a cross-section of leading intellectuals, academics, public figures, social activists, business leaders and institutions of higher learning. It was established on September 5, 1990 as a non-profit, public policy think tank and Rishi Kumar Mishra was the founding chairman.
ORF provides informed and viable inputs for the policy and decision-makers in the Indian Government and to the political and business leadership of the India. For this, the Foundation has established four Institutes to consolidate and shape its many activities and programs. These are the:
- ORF Institute of Asian Studies
- ORF Institute of Security Studies
- ORF Institute of Politics and Governance
- ORF Institute of Economy and Development
- Aid and impact formulation of policies and evolve policy alternatives.
- Create a climate conducive to effective implementation of these policies.
- Strengthen India?s democratic institutions to enable coherent, reasoned and consistent policy-making.
- Provide reasoned and consensual inputs representing a broad section of opinion to improve governance, accelerate economic development, and ensure a better quality of life for all Indians.
- Monitor strategic environment.
- Work towards achieving international peace, harmony, and co-operation.
- Give direction to India?s long-range foreign policy objectives.
Today, ORF is known among policy makers, both in India and abroad, as a place pulsating with fresh promises and ideas. Ideas are what shape public policy think tanks. Ideas are an expression of unfettered curiosity and an urge to explore ways and means to find solutions to vexed issues that affect us. At ORF, ideas are reflected in the projects and programmes that are undertaken by various institutes and programmes. Young researchers are encouraged to take up challenges of organizing and leading projects which, in the years to come, would be symbols of pride for the Foundation.
The Foundation’s activities can be neatly divided into two categories: Projects and Events. Both are an intrinsic part of the Foundation?s objective in shaping, influencing public opinion and creating viable, alternative policy options in areas as divergent as employment generation in backward districts and real-time strategies to counter Nuclear, Biological and Chemical threats.