Shaharbanni, native place of LJP president Ram Vilas Paswan, is a nondescript village lying between Kosi and Kamla Balan rivers. The village carries an unenviable epithet – Duba gaon (drowned village) — as the entire village goes down floodwaters every monsoon.
Shaharbanni is a part of Alauli Assembly constituency from where Paswan’s sibling Pasupati Kumar Paras is trying his luck for the sixth times. Pitted against the junior Paswan is JD (U) nominee Ramchandra Sada from Musahar caste which has sizeable population in the constituency. Villagers here are proud of its leader Ram Vilas Paswan, one the tallest politicians in Bihar, but at the same time are impressed with the work done by Nitish Kumar.
The village lacks basic infrastructure such as electricity, health facilities and schools. Even the road connecting the village to Alauli block is broken and pot-holed.
Virendra Sada, a resident of Alauli, said, “Sadak ka haalat Alauli se Paswanji ke gaon tak bahut kharab hai (the road connecting Alauli to Paswanji’s village is in bad shape).”
Adding to villagers’ woes is Kamla Balan river which divides Shaharbanni from rest Alauli and other parts of Khagaria town. Sada said, “For more than four months in a year, people of Shaharbanni village remain cut off from the rest of the world due to floods. It is very difficult to reach the village during rainy season as on one side is Kamla and on the other is Kosi.” “The situation is such that grooms here demand boat instead of car or motorcycle as dowry. Boats are the most convenient mode of transport in Khagaria from June to October,” said Sada.
According to villagers, Paswan’s first wife Raj Kumari lives in the Shaharbanni house, while the rest of the family lives in Patna and New Delhi. Paswan himself lives in Delhi with his second wife Reena Sharma Paswan, a Punjabi Brahmin from Amritsar. However, outsiders are not allowed to meet Paswan’s wife.
The LJP chief doesn’t visit the village too often. The last time he went to the village was in 2007 when his mother Siya Devi passed away. During his stay then, he got a memorial erected in the memory of his father Jamun Das and mother Siya Devi, but never visited the village after that.
“Not just senior Paswan, even Pasupati Paras seldom visits the village. He, in fact, visits Alauli once in six months.” Anil Yadav, a resident of Shaharbanni, said: “Ram Vilasji has done a lot for the village. On his initiative, the Steel Authority Of India (SAIL) has adopted the village and carried out numerous development work, including road from Kamla Balan bank to the village. A community hall has also been constructed by the organisation.”
“The Nitish Kumar government cleared the plan of a bridge on river Kamla Balan. More than seventy per cent of the construction work is completed and within a year, the bridge would be ready,” said Amit Yadav, another resident. Amit further said, the bridge, once completed, will connect the village with Khargaria.
Travelling on boats can be dangerous as the river current is very strong. “Lst year in October, more than 100 people lost their lives after the boat in which they were crossing the river, capsized. A total of 64 bodies were recovered while the rest are still traceless.”
Paswan’s younger brother Ramchandra Paswan, who is contesting the election from Kusherwar Sthan, said: “The project for construction of bridge over Kamla Balan has not been initiated by Nitsih Kumar. Laluji had first planned to build the bridge in 1994. However, due to official anomalies, work on the bridge could not start at that time.”
l Kahgaria votes today