| The incomplete Malai barrage at Nawanagar in Buxar. Picture by Santosh Singh |
The unfinished Malai barrage over the river Kao is a constant reminder to residents of Nawanagar village how a dream turned into a disappointment.
The state government had initiated the project at the village, about 130km west of Patna, way back in 1985.
The proposed barrage was supposed to be completed within two years, bringing prosperity to over 1.67-lakh hectare of agricultural land in towns such as Dumraon, Buxar and Rohtas.
The land acquisition from farmers started in 1986. Around 31 acre was acquired from farmers. Twenty-seven years have passed since then, but there has been no progress in the project
Satyanarain Prasad, one of the hundreds of Nawanagar residents angry with the delay, told The Telegraph: “The project was then Congress MLA Basant Singh’s brainchild. There was a Congress government in the state then. The divisional irrigation office was shifted from Maharganj in north Bihar to Nawanagar to expedite the process.”
He added: “But what prevented the completion of the barrage is the tussle between RJD MP Jagadanand Singh and Basant. This led to various complications and the project was not completed.”
The result: dwindling returns from agriculture and mass exodus from the area to states such as Maharashtra, Assam, Delhi and Uttarakhand.
Mrityunjay Singh, a resident of the village who now works as a contractor in Uttarakhand, said: “My father and uncle together own 50 bigha land. But I had to leave the village because there is no prospect for farming.”
He added: “Around 90 per cent of the people who were earlier engaged in farming have abandoned agriculture. Many have migrated. Those who are still there are looking for opportunities to escape.”
Rajiv Kumar Singh, another villager who has shifted to Uttarakhand, said: “I had to sell six bigha land for the marriage of my sisters in 2003 and 2008. As there is no prospect in farming, I moved to Uttarakhand to earn my livelihood.”
Authorities claim that it would take two more years to complete the Malai barrage.
“It has already been sanctioned. A tender will be issued soon. Once completed, it will benefit Dumraon, Kesath, Nawanagar and Chougain,” state water resources minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary told The Telegraph.
The minister added: “The barrage will strengthen the Sone canal system. As Buxar is at the end of the system, water is still not available there. The barrage will make water for irrigation available in Buxar.”
Promises, however, do not soothe the villagers who have been suffering for years. Many of them, who have been forced to sell of their land because of different reasons, have sought personal compensation from MP Singh. “If he wants our votes, he must provide us with adequate compensation,” said a villager on condition of anonymity.
The MP could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.