TODAY -

Train to Burma

Free Thinker *



Today Burma is known as Myanmar; I don't know why I still love to call Myanmar as Burma. There is no reason why I prefer the name Burma to Myanmar. Some 20 years back Government of India initiated the 'Look East Policy.'

Today it is 'Act East Policy' under the leadership of Modiji; though the name of the policy has been changed the intent and vision remain more or less the same. "Development is the only way ahead. We will carry forward the good work done by Atalji.." Narendra Modi.

Act East policy (AEP) visualizes a development path for the 7 Sisters (now 8); along with an oriental foreign policy vision for improving ties with our neighboring countries, an objective for economic growth for the underdeveloped North East is ingrained in the AEP . Physical linking and infrastructure development across borders is considered extremely important for economic growth, employment and all-round development.

It gives emphasis on the potential of trans-border trade with Burma, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and of course with the ASEAN countries. It will also certainly revive the traditional ties along with brisk trading and tourism.

Manipur has a single rail link in Jiribam, which is just at the border of the State. Correspondingly we have an ongoing Jiribam-Imphal project which is under construction for quite some time now. It has been a long wait for the people of Manipur to see rails and enjoy train services from inside the State.

Almost everyone knows the ground reality; the progress of this project is slow. It appears that the completion and operationalization of Jiribam–Imphal line may take some more time due to various constraints including the pandemic bane.

It is also relevant to mention here that this line is a futuristic line associated with our Act East Policy as this line will further be extended to Moreh (Indo-Burma border town) and beyond to connect with the Burmese rail network so that we are linked with ASEAN train services. Once we are linked with the train network of Burma, it will lead us to Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Singapore etc.

In the first week of July, 2021 the Railways successfully conducted a Rajdhani trial run from Silchar to parts of Tamenglong which is a part of Jiribam-Imphal line. Considering this successful dry run a service between Silchar and a possible station inside the State (via Jiribam)) may be started at the earliest so as to connect with other parts of the country by train.

In anticipation of the completion of the Jiribam- Imphal line within a year or two, "Yurembam" station may be constructed at Imphal so that a kind of confidence and feel good factor is instilled in the minds of the people. It is pertinent to mention that the State election is due early next year.

If the Railways can do at least these two things, a good message will go the people in terms of policies and governance. Here, the State Government may seek the kind indulgence of the Honourable Prime Minister because this project is a National project.

"Mano Majra has always been known for its railway station. Since the bridge has only one track, the station has several sidings where less important trains can wait, to make way for the more important. A small colony of shopkeepers and hawkers has grown up around the station to supply travellers with food, betel leaves, cigarettes, tea, biscuits and sweetmeats.

This gives the station an appearance of constant activity and its staff a somewhat exaggerated sense of importance" (Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh). This is the imaginative picture I carry at the moment for the "Yurembam" Imphal Railway Station.

Some few years from now we may see a rail line going to Moreh and beyond connecting the Burmese rail network in Sagaing division. Then the line gets connected with the entire rail network of Thailand, Malayasia and Singapore.

This can be made possible. It all depends on our futuristic vision, diplomatic will power and political determination. In diplomacy there is no right time or wrong time; so, it is the right time to go east towards ASEAN.

For making the Act East Policy a grand success we need to be more accommodative and lenient while dealing with our neighbors; we need to gain more friends. We have to do business with all kinds of Democracies and Ideologies as you can't change the geography.

Let us open up wider, free trade negotiation with ASEAN must be resumed. We may take a different view this time around because in the long run we are going to be the major beneficiary; and North East will become a hub of commercial activities. Through Burma once we are merged with ASEAN by road & rail communication there will be no looking back for our growth story.

'A Train to Burma in the near future' - let us work seriously for this. We can achieve it. Perhaps the survey work for Imphal-Moreh line has already been done.

Let us not be pessimistic like '2021' instead let us be optimistic like "Olangthagi Wangmadasu".


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on August 21 2021.



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