A new passenger train connecting Dhaka and New Jalpaiguri on the Indian side was inaugurated jointly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina via a video conference on Saturday. This is the third passenger train after Maitree Express (Dhaka-Kolkata) and Bandhan Express (Khulna-Kolkata) running between the two neighbouring countries.
The new passenger train, ‘Mitali Express’, was jointly inaugurated by Modi and Hasina at 6:38 pm on Saturday from the Prime Minister’s Office in Tejgaon here via a video conference, local vernacular news website BanglaNews24.com reported. The new inter-country passenger train was launched on the occasion of ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary and golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s Independence, it said.
The train will run between Dhaka Cantonment and New Jalpaiguri in West Bengal via Chilahati, a border railway station in Bangladesh. The distance between Dhaka and Chilahati is 453 km and from Chilahati to New Jalpaiguri is 71 km. Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan, Director General of Railways Dhirendra Nath Majumder and other senior officials were present at the Dhaka Cantonment Station during the inauguration.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters at a briefing that the service will start when normalcy is restored. Both countries had suspended railway services after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. The bi-weekly train has 10 coaches — four AC cabins, four AC chairs and two power car brake vans. It is expected to give a boost to tourism in both the countries.
The train will run from New Jalpaiguri to Dhaka Cantonment on Sunday and Wednesday and Dhaka Cantonment to New Jalpaiguri on Monday and Thursday. Last year, India and Bangladesh resumed operations on the Haldibari-Chilahati route for goods trains after a gap of over 55 years. The four other rail links that connect the two countries are Petrapole-Benapole, Gede-Darshana, Singhabad-Rohanpur and Radhikapur-Birol.
India and Bangladesh want stability, love and peace instead of instability, terror and unrest in the world, Prime Minister Modi said on Saturday as he underlined that the two friendly neighbours want to see the world progressing through their own development. Prime Minister Modi made the remarks while speaking to the Matua community members after offering prayers at their temple in Gopalganj’s Orakandi - the birthplace of Hindu mystic figure and community’s spiritual guru Harichand Thakur.
“Both India and Bangladesh want to see the world progressing through their own development. Both the countries want to see stability, love, and peace instead of instability, terror, and unrest in the world," Modi said. Modi said he was waiting for this opportunity for many years and during his visit to Bangladesh in 2015, he had expressed desire to visit Orakandi, which has come true now.
This place is a pilgrimage site for the spiritual relationship between India and Bangladesh, he said. “I was speaking to some people here. They were saying who could have thought that India’s Prime Minister would visit Orakandi, Modi said, adding that he was feeling the same emotions as felt by the Matua community members in India after coming to Orakandi, from where Harichand Thakur disseminated his pious message.
Orakandi is the abode of Hindu Matua community, a large number of whom are residents of neighbouring West Bengal. Prime Minister Modi announced that India will upgrade one girls’ middle school and set up a primary school in Orakandi.
In his address, Modi said that it was important for both India and Bangladesh to come together and fight common challenges. He said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, India and Bangladesh proved their capabilities.
“Both nations are facing this pandemic strongly and fighting it together. India is working by considering that it is its duty that the ‘Made in India’ vaccine reaches the citizens of Bangladesh," Modi added. He said India is moving forward with the mantra of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, and Sabka Vishwas’, and Bangladesh is its co-passenger in it.
“Bangladesh is presenting a strong example of development and change in front of the world and India is your co-passenger in these efforts," he added. Modi also mentioned that every year a large number of people travel from India to Orakandi to participate in Baruni Snan’ on occasion of the birth anniversary of Shri Shri Hari Chand Thakur and more efforts would be made to ease their travel.
Last time when Prime Minister Modi visited Bangladesh in 2015, he offered puja at Dhakeshwari temple in the national capital. Bangladesh has taken extra security measures for the Indian premier’s visit in the wake of protests by few leftist and Islamist groups.
In 2016, the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) said their latest vital sample statistics report found the country’s total population to be 15.89 crore by the end of 2015 with the number of Hindus at 1.70 crore in the Muslim-majority nation.