New Delhi, February 5: Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday said the pilot movement of foodgrains on vessel through inland waterways from Patna in Bihar to Pandu in Guwahati is an important step to connect eastern and North-East parts of the country.
He said the 2,350 km voyage will open a new gate to the ‘Gateway of North East’ and ensure seamless waterways connectivity to North East Region through Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers, according to a food ministry statement.
The minister was addressing virtually on the occasion of flagging-off of vessel MV Lal Bahadur Shastri carrying food grains from Patna to Pandu and unveiling of foundation stone for terminal at Kalughat (Bihar), according to an official statement.
Inland vessel carrying 200 tonnes of food grains belonging to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) was flagged off from Inland Water Terminal Gaighat, Patna.
This is the first food grain movement on this Inland Water Transport (IWT) route. The 25-30 days voyage will be an integrated IWT movement via National Waterway-1 (river Ganga), NW-97 (Sunderbans), Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route and NW-2 (river Brahmaputra).
Sarbananda Sonowal, Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Ashwini Kumar Chaubey, Minister of State (MoS) for Food and Consumer Affairs, Shripad Naik, MoS for Ports, Shipping& Waterways and Shantanu Thakur, MoS for Ports, Shipping & Waterways flagged off the vessel.
Both the Deputy Chief Ministers of Bihar, Members of Parliament Ravi Shankar Prasad, Sushil Kumar Modi and Rajeev Pratap Rudy were also present.
Khalid Mohd. Chaudhary, Minister of Shipping, Bangladesh also attended the event virtually.
“This will make our farmers Aatmanirbhar by expanding their reach & providing them better prices and better living. This event is a perfect demonstration of PM’s combined vision for Act East’ policy & the inclusive development of Bihar and North-East Region,” Goyal said.
He mentioned that India-Bangladesh friendship is reaching new heights and this event is another milestone and a testament to ever-growing friendship between India and Bangladesh.
Goyal stated that the planned intermodal terminal at Kalughat, Bihar at Rs 78 crore cost will provide boost to region’s socio-economic development and create multiple job opportunities.
This will also help decongest the roads of North Bihar and provide an alternative route for transportation of cargo in this area, the minister said.
Goyal said this route from Patna can prove to be a viable alternative to the conventional mode of movement of foodgrains & goods for North-East region.
The minister informed that for seamless navigation to north-east region, two stretches of the IBP route are being developed with Bangladesh with a budget of Rs 305 crore.
Highlighting major steps taken for holistic development of waterways infra and ecosystem to increase share of inland water transport in overall cargo transport, Goyal said that under PM GatiShakti, waterways is one of the seven engines that is driving transformative approach for economic growth & sustainable development.
He informed that the government has undertaken Jal Marg Vikas Project with Rs 4,600 crore for capacity augmentation of NW-1 (Ganga) for safe movement of vessels upto 2,000 tonnes.
This Project includes construction/setting up of multi-modal terminals at Varanasi, Sahibganj and Haldia, Ro-Ro terminals, jetties, vessel repair & maintenance facilities, etc. Eighty connectivity projects are in progress under Sagarmala to connect commercial hubs with ports.
Goyal also stated that 106 new waterways in 24 States have been declared as National Waterways, taking the total number to 111. He said development of these rivers would include maintenance of infra for river shipping & navigation and warehouse facilities.
Lauding the efforts of the FCI in carrying out world’s largest food supply system in COVID, Goyal said the FCI has been the lifeline of the nation.
He said the food security to 80 crore beneficiaries have been extended under PMGKAY (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana) and the government has allocated 758 lakh tonnes foodgrain under PMGKAY I to PMGKAY V during the Covid pandemic.
Goyal also highlighted that 97 per cent of population has been connected with One Nation One Ration Card Scheme.
He said the FCI is serving far flung areas like Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, A&N Islands, Lakshadweep, etc.
Earlier in 2014-15 to 2016-17, the FCI moved around 22,000 tonnes foodgrains to Agartala through IBP waterway route during Gauge conversion in NFR.
The Minister also invited suggestions on how the FCI can improve compatibility with riverine movement of foodgrains upgrading warehouses, improving packing to reduce pilferage, increase shelf life and using tech to improve efficiency.
Goyal said the FCI in association with Ministry of Shipping & Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) will continue to explore & increase the riverine movement, which is most eco-friendly, clean and economical mode of transportation. (PTI)