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Tripura Ends 2006 on Optimistic Note
by Sujit Chakraborty Bookmark and Share
Agartala, Dec 30 (IANS) As 2006 moves to a close, a faint light of hope glimmers at the end of the tunnel for insurgency-hit Tripura.

Two-and-a-half decades of violence saw a turnaround when around 140 tribal guerillas laid down arms and peace agreements were signed with two major outfits - National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF).

Despite occasional hit and run strikes by the militants, the year saw a considerable decline in bloodshed.

"In 2005 militants killed 30 innocent people against 13 gunned down this year," said G.M. Srivastava, the director general Tripura police.

Five years ago Tripura had emerged as the "kidnapping hub" of northeast India, accounting for nearly half of all abductions for ransom by militants in the region. The number this year is 38 - a sharp decline from 542 in 2000.

"Intelligence reports suggest that lack of funds is pushing the militants to the brink of collapse, and they are cornered. Extremists in camps in Bangladesh suffer from malnutrition, mental agony and a shortage of manpower that is causing frustration," Srivastava told IANS.

"The general cadres, disillusioned with the luxurious lifestyle of their leaders, are willing to shun the path of violence at the first opportunity, resulting in a large-scale surrender of ultras."

Reacting to the decline of militancy, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar said: "We are not complacent. We have to wipe out militancy."

Deployment of counter-insurgency trained Tripura State Rifles (TSR) troops at strategic locations and barbed wire fencing along most of the 856-km border with Bangladesh have also considerably restricted cross-border movement of rebels.

"We are always ready to talk to the militants and they are also free to talk with the central government about their genuine demands," Sarkar said.

During the year, Tripura received a major boost in infrastructure development and investment both in the government and private sector. Several projects worth over Rs.5 billion were commissioned at the Bodhjung Nagar growth center in west Tripura.

The state, the second largest rubber growing state in the country after Kerala, received a boost when the Dharampal Satyapal group set up India's largest rubber thread export unit at Bodhjung Nagar, 15 km north of here. Rubber thread is used in the hosiery and garments industry.

The rubber board has identified 100,000 hectares of land as potential area for plantation in Tripura.

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) are to undertake massive exploration works to tap the around 40 billion cubic metres of gas reserves estimated in Tripura.

The gas would be supplied to a proposed 740 MW capacity giant thermal power plant and also cater to other industrial projects across the state, said R.K. Marya, ONGC Tripura asset group general manager.

The corporation would carry out drilling in 60 exploratory and 14 developmental wells as part of the mega project.

"The existing gas handling facility would be enhanced from 1.6 million cubic metre (mcm) gas per day to 7.5 mcm in a phased manner."

The 740 MW power plant, ONGC's first-ever commercial power project, is being set up at a cost of Rs.400 billion at Palatana in south Tripura to tap the gas potential in this logistically difficult state.

After a three yearlong uncertainty, the Monarchak gas-based power project in west Tripura will now materialize after ONGC finally agreed to provide natural gas for the 104 MW project. The North Eastern Electric Power Corp (NEEPCO) will commission the project, which was earlier abandoned, for Rs.4.47 billion.

Tripura was the first state in the country where Public Private Partnership was introduced in the healthcare sector with a 100-seat medical college, jointly run by the Tripura government and a south India-based NRI group.

Agartala is the first capital city in the northeast where two medical colleges with 100-seat capacity each have been set up. Earlier, the government had set up a medical college here with financial assistance from the Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) ministry. 

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