The objective: Mutual cooperation
India and Bangladesh share the view that bus service between the two neighbouring countries would usher in positivity in relations, bringing the people on both sides closer to each other.
During the trial run from Kolkata to Dhaka, the bus reached the Bangladeshi capital city of Dhaka at night and left for Agartala in Tripura the following morning, after Bangladesh government officials boarded the bus.
At the flag-off ceremony in Dhaka, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee gave Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina a symbolic ticket of the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala service. The main intention is for improving people-to-people contact between the neighbouring countries by enhancing connectivity.
The Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala service would reduce by 560 km the distance between West Bengal and the landlocked state of Tripura, which is surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides.
Flagging off in Dhaka (indianexpress.com)
First ride: Experiencing the journey
The Benapole border never looked so bright and decked up at midnight as it did on Thursday, June 4 when the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala bus crossed the border to enter Bangladesh. Sounds of drums and bugles filled the air and the hundreds who gathered there to witness the historic event strained their vocal chords, chanting paeans to India-Bangladesh friendship.
As the Volvo halted at the Magura circuit house, a team of officials greeted the Bengal delegation with a warmth that immediately made them feel at home. Years ago, this place had marked its name in history after locals stood against the British during the Indigo Uprising in 1859-60. Magura came back into focus during the Muktijuddha (Bangladesh’a war of liberation) when it resisted the Pak army.
Crossing the Padma on a full-moon night is perhaps one of the most captivating moments in Bangladesh. As the barge carrying vehicles left Goalanda Ghat, it plunged into silence. This silence was in stark contrast to the bustling city life in Dhaka. The capital of Bangladesh has changed over the years with multi-storied buildings, shopping malls, foreign banks and multinational companies dotting the city's skyline. But at the heart of it, the city has remained what it has always been. Traffic during peak hours continues to move at a snail's pace, making its way through endless rows of rickshaws.
Approximately 4 lakh rickshaws ply on Dhaka roads. But more than the number, it's their contribution to the vibrancy of the city that matters more. Painted with bold and raw colours, rickshaw art became popular in Dhaka during the 40s. While the body is painted with subjects ranging from floral designs and scenery to filmi themes, the hood is sewn carefully with applique designs.
As the bus sped across Matijhil Jatrabari flyover to leave Dhaka and head along National Highway 2, it crossed Narayanganj — the district known for its fine artisanship of Jamdani and Taant sarees. Along the 130-km drive from Dhaka to the Akhaura border near Tripura, it crossed Narsingdi, Ashuganj and Brahmanberia — names that are synonymous with the Liberation War. Narsingdi has a new identity though. It came into prominence in 2010 after a 1,400-year-old Buddhist temple was excavated by archeologists. The brick-built temple at the Wari-Bateshwar dating back to seventh or eighth century is a proof of Buddhism spreading in the region.
Brahmanbaria, the birthplace of Ustad Alauddin Khan — the father of the Malhar gharana of music, has for long been a seat of art and culture in Bangladesh. At the farthest end of the district is Akhaura — the area that separates Tripura from Bangladesh. As the bus travelled across Brahmanmaria towards the east, the scenery started changing fast. Small hutments made way for lush green fields. The last stretch leading to Akhaura ended up at the checkpost where customs and immigration officials awaited the bus. “Kamon achhen?,” said a Bangladeshi officer coming forward with a broad smile on a sun-tanned face. Barely hundred meters away from Indian soil, passengers felt at home again.
Route map of the bus (thedailystar.net)
The plan: Bridging gaps
There would be two buses on the Kolkata-Agartala-Dhaka route, one of which would be run by the West Bengal Government and the other by the Tripura Government.
Several hundred passengers from Tripura, including seriously ill patients, job seekers, students, even bridegrooms and tourists face problems in going to Kolkata and other parts of India in view of the non-availability of air tickets for want of aircraft.
Transportation via Bangladesh would be much easier as road connectivity is a big factor for the mountainous north-eastern states that share boundaries with Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and China.
Now there can be smoother and more frequent travel because of both domestic as well as international cooperation between Bangladesh, West Bengal and Tripura.
People of the north-eastern states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam, that share extensive boundaries with India's eastern neighbour, would benefit from the bus services.
The bus service between India and Bangladesh would further strengthen the relationship between the people of the two countries.
CM Mamata Banerjee and PM Sheikh Hasina at the Dhaka flagging off (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
Written by Daniel Johns for Team M3.tv
Lead image: en.prothom-alo.com