Vital link

The opening of a rail link with Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, from Assam is an important event not only for the border state but for the entire north-east. 

The first train commuted from Dekargaon in Assam to the Naharlagun station in  Itanagar on a 181 km line on Monday.
 
The air of celebration was palpable at the inauguration though it was muted by the code of conduct for elections which is in force.

It was the culmination of a long and much-delayed project which was conceived in the 1990s and was announced as part of a package for the state in 2008.

It has missed its deadlines for completion many times. But with the line becoming a reality now India’s farthest north-eastern point is accessible by rail from the rest of the country.
 
Arunachal Pradesh is only the second state in the north-east after Assam to be brought on the country’s rail map.

It is a measure of the low priority given to infrastructure development in the entire region that it has taken many decades for the country to extend its rail network to the landlocked states.

The entire north-east is poorly served by roads.
 
Much of the region is insurgency-prone and disturbed and frequent road blockades cut it off from the country.

A functioning alternative rail work would have greatly eased connectivity problems and the distress of people.

It would also have given a great boost to the economy of the region.

Trade and business in the region flourish only if it is integrated with the rest of the country. 

Access by road and rail to ports in Bangladesh and Myanmar and onward to the south-east Asian countries is also vital for the development of the region.

Plans for this have not taken off because of slow infrastructure growth and lack of progress in settling some bilateral issues with Bangladesh.
 
Rail links and good road and air connectivity for the north-east are important for strategic reasons also.

Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China, has a 1,000 km border with that country. China’s high-altitude Tibetan railway from the mainland comes close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh. 
 
So the rail line to Itanagar should also been as part of the strengthening of  India’s border infrastructure.
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