Kolkata/Dhaka, Apr 14 (UNI) Picking up the threads after 43 years, ''Maitree Express'', the train service on Dhaka-Kolkata route today connected India and Bangladesh on the first day of the Bengali New Year.
As External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee yanked the lever to flag off the journey, the 'Maitree Express' (friendship train) trundled out of Kolkata station for Dhaka on a historic India-Bangladesh run.
The first train left Dhaka Cantonment station at 0830 hrs with 450 passengers on board while another from Kolkata is scheduled to arrive at the Dhaka Cantonment station at 2030 hrs today.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and Railway Minister of State R Velu were among the large number of dignitaries present on the occasion.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad described the initiative as a testimony to the UPA government's eagerness to strengthen relationship with the neighbouring nations.
After 1965, it was on April 10 that India and Bangladesh signed an agreement clearing the way for cross-border run of trains on the Dhaka-Kolkata route from Pahela Baishakh.
While initially, two trains from Kolkata will leave every Saturday and Sunday, at 0710 hrs, a corresponding train from Dhaka will also start for Kolkata on those two days at 2030 hrs Bangladesh time. However, the inaugural 'Maitree Express' from Dhaka would start on Wednesday next to reach Kolkata the next day morning.
The train will halt for a considerable time at the border town of Gede in Nadia district and at Darshana in Chuadanga district of Bangladesh, the immigration checkpoint for passengers from India.
Dhaka Cantonment station would serve the same purpose for the outbound passengers.
Mr Mukherjee heaped praises on the Railway Minister for having made personal efforts to introduce the trans-border service, a long standing aspiration of the people of both the countries.
More UNI Team AKJ HT1655