Kolkata-Dhaka train hits roadblock

Kolkata-Dhaka train hits roadblock

New Delhi: The much-awaited Kolkata-Dhaka passenger train service is caught on a row between India and Bangladesh over wire mesh.

Though coaches, tracks and staff required to run the train are ready, the vexed issue of fencing the no-man’s land has stalled the inaugural run till date.

While Indian authorities insist on fencing off the no-man’s land at Indo-Bangla border for custom and immigration clearance, Bangladesh, it is learnt, has reservation about it.

A six-member high-powered delegation from Bangladesh Railway are coming to India next week to sort out the issue, said a senior Railway Ministry official.

“Though we are fully ready with our preparation to run the passenger train to Dhaka, the issue of fencing the area between Gede on Indian side and Darshana in Bangladesh has not been resolved yet," he said.

Tentatively named as Maitree Express, the train will have 14 coaches including AC coaches and pantry car and cover about 400 km distance between Chitpur (Kolkata) to Joydevpur (Dhaka) in 14 hours. “It is a non-stop train and though the journey will take only eight hours, the Custom and immigration clearance at both sides will take six hours.

“However, we are trying to reduce the custom clearance time to four hours," said the official.

“The ticket rate is fixed at Rs450 per person tentatively. However, a final decision is likely to be taken soon", said the official.

“We want the custom and immigration clearance to be done in a covered area of about 500 metres. The purpose behind fencing the entire clearance area is to make a fool-proof arrangement against possible infiltration and smuggling of contrabands,“ said the official.

Beside Railway Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs and Home Ministry are also involved in the exercise. The deployment of BSF, RPF, GRP and custom and immigration officials for the train is also being finalised.

Since the Indo-Bangla border is porous, there are cases of smuggling of contrabands and illegal crossing of border.

“We do not want the train to become a medium for illegal activities. That is why we are insisting on taking all possible measures including fencing the custom clearance area to prevent it," said the official.

Freight trains with 40 wagons are already operational between Kolkata and Dhaka. However, most of the time foodgrains and general goods are going from India to Bangladesh and not vice-versa. India exported 6.58 lakh tons of foodgrains and general goods through the freight train in 2005-06.