New Delhi, Feb 22: Ahead of assembly elections in Assam, Centre has given a big gift to people of the state. On Saturday, a direct weekly train from New Delhi to Silchar was flagged off by the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
The express train will run between New Delhi and Silchar (southern Assam's main commercial city) via Guwahati, New Coochbehar and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal.
Suresh Prabhu flagged off Silchar-New Delhi Poorvottar Sampark Kranti special express in a colourful ceremony at Silchar railway station on Saturday. Speaking on the occasion, Prabhu said that that by 2020, all the state capitals of Northeast will have direct rail connectivity.
Reportedly, this part of the State which is called Southern Assam played pivotal role in Independence movement and is also gateway to Tripura, Mizoram and parts of Manipur. Shocking, even after 69 years of the Independence, southern Assam didn't had any direct train connectivity.
Earlier on February 1, the Silchar-Sealdah Kanchanjunga Express began operations, meeting a long-standing demand of the people to link southern Assam with the country's mainland.
Southern Assam's Barak Valley was brought on the broad gauge rail map early last year. And a regular passenger train service between Silchar and Guwahati started on November 21 last year.
The 210-km Lumding-Silchar gauge conversion project, which was declared a national project in 2004, had been initiated in 1996.
The Lumding-Silchar line is the lifeline for southern Assam, known as Barak Valley, and the mountainous states of Tripura, Manipur and Mizoram. These states are heavily dependent on this railway line for supply of foodgrain, fertilisers, petroleum products, construction materials and other commodities.
'Vote bank politics'
Meanwhile, Congress has alleged that the government is starting new trains to get electoral benefit.
Congress leader Tapas Dey said, "The government wants to woo the electorate before the politically important assembly elections in Assam".
(With inputs from agency)