Expanding national highways in east India vital for trade


Jangipur (West Bengal) : Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Sunday stressed on the expansion of the national highways in eastern India to develop trade and other economic activities with neighbouring countries in sync with the government’s Look East policy.

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“Nathula Pass (in Sikkim) is an international commercial point. So the national highways connecting this point will be of great importance,” said Mukherjee.

He said Nathula Pass is a strategic point of trade between India and China, and with other countries like Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

“As these countries are contributing a major share of the world trade output, the development of roads in eastern India assumes significance. It is in sync with our Look East policy,” Mukherjee said here, about 260 km from Kolkata, in Murshidabad district.

He was speaking after laying the foundation stone of the four-laning of the National Highway 34 between Baharampur in Murshidabad district to Dalkhola in North Dinajpur.

He said expansion of the national highways was vital for the implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit had expressed concern over the matter.

On land acquisition regarding the widening of NH 34, Mukherjee said: “Around 300-plus hectares will be acquired for the first phase of this project. Heavy compensation will be given to land losers, along with work during the construction period. A proper relief and rehabilitation policy is also being framed, but it will take some time to be implemented.”

The project, developed by HCC Infrastructures, is part of the National Highway Authority of India’s (NHAI) expansion plan of the 443.5 km-long NH34.

NHAI chairman Brijeshwar Singh said acquisition of more than 80 percent of the land needed for the project was over. “We have also paid 25-30 percent of compensation to land losers. Moreover, NHAI is also planning to give additional compensation to the people, whose livelihood was affected.”

Singh also added that bidding for the second phase of NH-34 widening, from Kolkata to Berhampore, will be held in the next two months. The NH-34 stretches from Dum Dum in North 24 Parganas to Dalkhola.