‘Better connectivity in 9 years’: PM Modi at launch of northeast’s first Vande Bharat Express

May 30, 2023 07:22 AM IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the previous governments did not take up connectivity to the northeast as a priority

Guwahati: Connectivity to the Northeast has increased manifold in the last nine years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday as he virtually flagged off the region’s first Vande Bharat Express linking Assam’s Guwahati with West Bengal’s New Jalpaiguri.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagging off the train. (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagging off the train. (PTI)

Hitting out at the previous governments for ignoring connectivity to the Northeast, Modi said: “Connectivity to the Northeast was not considered as a priority by previous governments at the Centre. But that has changed in the past nine years (of Bharatiya Janata Party’s rule at the Centre), and connectivity in all sectors, including railways, has increased manifold.”

The Vande Bharat Express, which is expected to boost tourism, will operate six days a week (except Tuesdays) and will cut down the travel time between Guwahati and New Jalpaiguri – a distance of around 407 km – by one hour. The journey will be completed in 5 hours, 30 minutes.

Modi said there has been a four-fold rise in the railway budget for the Northeast under the BJP-led central government. “Prior to 2014, the annual railway budget for the Northeast used to be around 2,500 crore. But it has now increased to nearly 10,000 crore, which is a four-fold rise,” he said.

Read: Uttarakhand gets 1st Vande Bharat. Tickets, route, timings, all details

Taking note of the Prime Minister’s remark, the Congress said that “it is common for him to blame the party for everything”. “But he shouldn’t forget that the Saraighat Bridge over the Brahmaputra, which the Vande Bharat Express will cross to reach Guwahati, was constructed six decades ago when the Congress was at the Centre. Even the Rajdhani Express train, which connects Guwahati to New Delhi in just 28 hours, was introduced during Congress rule,” Assam Congress chief Bhupen Kumar Borah said.

During his address, the Prime Minister also said the railway network across the country has expanded over the last nine years and added that all state capitals will soon be connected by trains.

He also inaugurated a diesel-electric multiple/mainline electric mainline unit (DEMU/MEMU) shed at Lumding in the state and 182 km of newly electrified railway lines for pollution-free transportation at higher speeds.

Union ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Sarbananda Sonowal, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Assam governor Gulab Chand Kataria were among those who attended the flagging off ceremony.

Read: 3 versions of Vande Bharat trains to come up based on distance | Details

Vaishnaw also said the budget allocation for the Northeast has increased under the Modi government, which is helping expedite projects in the region.

“Fifteen to 20 years ago, whatever good things used to happen used to go to the big cities, these took time to reach the Northeast,” he said. However, after the Modi government came to power, it “changed the mindset” and for the Northeast, “Look East” was transformed into “Act East”, he said.

In a tweet, Sarma said: “The flagging off of the first #VandeBharatExpress by Hon PM Shri @narendramodi Ji is significant for many reasons. It is a turning point in efforts to modernise NorthEast’s rail network since 2014. With robust implementation of PM-Gatishakti, various roads, air & water connectivity projects, NE has become physically and emotionally very close to the rest of the country.”

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    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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