New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 4.94-km-long rail-cum-road Bogibeel Bridge on Tuesday. The longest rail-cum-road bridge of India will connect Assam’s Dibrugarh on the south bank to Dehamji in the north. It will not only improve connectivity but also help the economic development of the region. Some reports claimed that the Bogibeel Bridge, which was a part of the Assam Accord and sanctioned in 1997-98 will also strengthen the defence movement along the India-China frontiers.

Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) Chief Public Relations Officer Pranav Jyoti Sharma said almost 75 per cent of the 4,000-km long border that India shares with China is in Arunachal Pradesh, and the bridge will help in logistical support for the Indian Army manning the border.

Yesterday, the All Assam Ahom Sabha (AAAS), an organisation that has been demanding the new rail-cum-road bridge at Bogibeel near Dibrugarh to be named after the Ahom Kingdom’s founder, welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to inaugurate the bridge.

“The Ahom Sabha acknowledges with deep appreciation the diligence with which the Prime Minister expedited the completion of the bridge,” the Dibrugarh district unit of the organisation said in a statement.

“The Ahom Sabha feels that the inauguration of the bridge would mark an epoch in the history of the region and would contribute to the realisation of the national ideals of a composite humane society of Assam as well as India. In fact, these are also the ideals of the Ahom Sabha, an organisation that has above all tenaciously striven for building bridges across peoples and cultures,” it stated.

In a memorandum to Modi earlier in December, it called for the bridge to be named after Siu-ka-pha, who it described as “the founder of Bor Axom (composite Assam) or Seven Sisters and the Axomiya society”.

In its latest statement, the AAAS said that the inauguration of the bridge on December 25 would not only facilitate easy and convenient transport and commutation between the north and south banks of the Brahmaputra “contributing thereby to the progress and development of a resurgent India”, but would also help in the successful hosting of the 61st session of the AAAS from January 4 to 6, 2019.

Important facts about India’s Longest Rail-Road Link

The foundation stone of the project was laid by former prime minister H D Deve Gouda on January 22, 1997, while work commenced on April 21, 2002 under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government. December 25 happens to be Vajpayee’s birth anniversary.

Because of the inordinate delay in implementation, the cost of the project escalated by 85 per cent to Rs 5,960 crore from the sanctioned estimated cost of Rs 3,230.02 crore. The total length of the bridge was also revised to 4.94 km from the earlier 4.31 km.

Realising its strategic importance, the central government had declared the construction of the bridge as a National Project in 2007, thereby assuring availability of fund for speedy construction.

Although it will ease out inconvenience caused to people living on the northern side of Brahmaputra to a great extent, officials said the defence requirement played an important role while sanctioning the structure and its design.

“The bridge will enhance the national security of the eastern region by facilitating swift movement of defence forces and their equipment. It was constructed in such a way that even a fighter jet can land on it in case of emergency,” a defence source said. Moreover, because of the technology used, the Air Force will have three landing strips, he added.

“The biggest advantage of the bridge will be easy movement of troops from southern to northern bank. This means travelling to the farthest most point of India’s border with China will be shortened by several hundred kilometres. First, the Dhola-Sadiya bridge and now Bogibeel — these two are going to enhance India’s defence prowess,” a senior Army official said.