By Tirthankar Mitra
We are passing through a time where connection often happens through digital screens. In this backdrop, rejuvenating an almost forgotten connection between India and Sri Lanka by the resumption of a passenger ferry services will bolster bilateral ties, boost tourism and increase people to people relations.
The ferry service operates from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu and chug to Kankesanthurai in Jaffna, northern Sri Lanka. Launched on October 14, the vessel, a high speed craft is named ‘Cheriyapani’. The maiden voyage of Cheriyapani is much more than a transportation milestone. It is a testament to the enduring significance of human interaction.
Time was Indo-Ceylon Express sailed between Thoothukkudi and Colombo through the then Madras. It symbolised regional connectivity and cooperation. But the voyages which brought Indians close to the Sri Lankans ceased abruptly. The outbreak of civil war in the idyllic island country in 1982 saw to the suspension of the ferry services.
Before the sound of gun shots and groan of the injured shattered the orchestra of the hum of bees and bird songs in the neighbouring nation, it used to be one of the most popular routes from Dhanuskodi to Talaimannar. The coal-powered voyage lasted about two hours.
The cessation of the journey across the choppy sea resonated deeply. For it was not just a physical voyage but more. It shared visions of cooperation between two countries who had shaken off their colonial bondage. It was a journey promising prosperity to both the countries. Now it’s resumption is a boost to the trading prospects of both the countries. It can amplify religious tourism in the coastal region of both the countries.
Indeed, tourism stands to be the major gainer post this renewed connectivity. Stunning landscapes, history sites and a rich cultural heritage greet tourists on their arrival both in India and Sri Lanka.
The voyage will certain go a long way in raising the ease of travel. It opens up a seamless way for the citizens of both the countries to savour each other’s natural beauties and remnants of the works of their forefathers.
Even as neighbours separated by a salty sea of Palk Strait again begin to know each other better, benefits to the local communities will increase manifold. It will percolate to hotels, restaurants and tour operators.
Moreover, it will foster a stronger bond between individuals of both the countries. One hopes other neighbouring countries will take a leaf out of it .With faster and more convenient transportation of goods, businesses in the two countries can benefit. For it would reduce transport time and cut costs.
Mode of operation will be crucial to the continuance of this renewed contact. Initial plans to run the ferry service daily for 10 days has been rescheduled to run thrice a week. No point in bemoaning it. The ferry’s cessation left a void which has now been filled.
A lost connection has been restored. It has opened a gateway to a brighter future marking a leap of faith in bilateral relations. An ill wind blows in the Middle East. In its backdrop, the resumption of the ferry service in a boost to revitalisation of Indo-Sri Lankan relations is indeed a bright spot. A lost connection has been restored. The gateway to a brighter future has been reopened. (IPA Service)