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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Show of strength chokes city gateways
- Meet blow to journey plans

Ram had no idea of the misery that awaited him and his family after alighting 13008 Sriganganagar-Delhi-Howrah Toofan Express at Patna Junction on Sunday morning.

The 35-year-old medical assistant with a New Delhi-based hospital had to run after one taxi after another outside the station to reach his Rajendra Nagar home. But even after a frantic chase for an hour, he could get none — thanks to the show of strength by the JD(U) during its Adhikar Rally.

Frustrated with the situation, he approached a policeman deputed at a temporary outpost for help.

The policeman, however, was of no help for Ram. He was told to arrange a vehicle on his own, as plying of auto-rickshaws and taxies in the vicinity of the railway station had been banned because of the rally. Ram finally called up one of his relatives at Kankerbagh, requesting him to arrange a vehicle so that he could reach home.

“I have been waiting outside the station with my family for more than an hour. But there is no vehicle around. Even rickshaws are not available,” he told The Telegraph.

“Whom do I blame for this — the administration or the political party? Had I been aware of the rally, I would have deferred my journey by a week. I got down from the train around 10.15am and have not reached home yet (11.15am). See the plight of my children. While I am stranded at the railway station, my parents are worried about our safety,” he said.

Ram’s was not the only case. Hundreds of passengers reaching Patna Junction had to face a lot of problems because of lack of transportation. Ganesh Kumar was one of them. The twenty-eight-year-old, who reached Patna from New Delhi in the same train, was found engaged in an animated discussion with an autorickshaw driver on Station Road. “He wants more than double the regular fare,” Ganesh said, adding, “I have to oblige the driver because there is no option.”

A traffic constable eagerly listening to the conversation finally intervened.

“You are fortunate enough to get the vehicle for your destination (Gola Road near Danapur). Take it or you walk or wait till 4pm when the traffic gets normal,” the constable told Kumar.

Mohammed Sarfuddin, 45, a physically challenged resident of Barh, blamed the JD(U) for the trouble he faced at the railway station. He was almost in tears while trying to convince a rickshaw puller to help him reach Gandhi Maidan. “I didn’t face any trouble travelling from Barh to Patna. But here, there is no means of transport. I can’t walk from the station to Gandhi Maidan, a distance of more than 1km,” Sarfuddin said.

Several people had reached Patna a day in advance to catch trains for different destinations. “I reached Patna from Sitamarhi on Saturday night, as I had to board a train for Secunderabad on Sunday morning. I spent the night in a hotel near the station,” said Mahesh Mandal, a resident of Runnisaidpur in Sitamarhi district.

The scene at the airport was in no way different. Several fliers remained stranded at the terminal building for hours because of minimal availability of taxis. Most taxi drivers refused to take out their vehicles.

Many fliers had arrived at the airport several hours before the departure time of their respective flights.

“Though my flight to Mumbai was scheduled to depart at 2.30pm, I reached the airport at 5am. I arrived to Patna with my family on Saturday night and spent the night at a hotel in the Frazer Road area,” said Jalal Ahmed, a resident of Siwan.

Dan Salajn, a US resident who had come to Patna to meet his friend, said: “I had to take an Air India flight (AI 408) for New Delhi. Though the schedule departure time was 3.15pm, I reached the airport by 11am.”

Deepak Kumar Chanki, a resident of Calcutta was annoyed with the additional expense of over Rs 9,000 he had to bear because of the rally. “I was supposed to go to Delhi by Magadh Express at 6.10pm on Saturday but the train was delayed. Since my training session in Delhi was important, I had to buy an air ticket for Rs 9,333,” he said.

The rally also had its effect on healthcare. The emergency ward of Patna Medical College and Hospital received 20 patients till 1.30pm. On other days, the number is more than 150. “We received less patients because of the rally,” medical superintendent R.K. Singh said.