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Taste of rural life in towns

Bihar lives in its villages, in more ways than one.

Apart from Patna, which is a tier-3 city, the rest of the towns in the state look like urban villages with almost no civic amenities. Bhagalpur, Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur lack basic civic infrastructure like water supply, drainage and sewage network. Though a few towns have some infrastructure in place, the facilities are either outdated or defunct.

Half the population of Gaya, the constituency of urban development minister Prem Kumar, does not have access to water supply. The British had designed the drainage network, but at present, it is choked at many places. The result is predictable — perennial waterlogging.

Solid waste management, on the other hand, is a far cry in Bhagalpur. In the absence of any system of door-to-door collection of garbage, most residents dump waste in some open land or by the roads.

Like most other towns in Bihar, the streets of Darbhanga and Purnea welcome the residents to a heart of darkness after sunset because the streetlights are non-functional. The water supply network cannot be found in most areas of the two towns.

The situation is in no way different in Muzaffarpur, where the streets go under knee-deep water following trace showers because there is no network to drain out the water. Heaps of garbage is a common sight at Moti Jheel, the biggest commercial hub of the town.

In Patna, the civic amenities are comparatively better but still not up to the mark especially when benchmarked with other state capitals. Poor garbage collection and choked sewage and drainage networks are a common complaint. Roads either have defunct streetlights or lights that are on round-the-clock. The financial condition of Patna Municipal Corporation is so poor that its workers quite often do not receive salaries regularly.

A senior officer in the urban development department blamed weak municipalities, lack of urban reforms and failure of external assistance such as funding under the British Department for International Development and Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission for the slow pace of urbanisation in the state.

Urban development minister Prem Kumar said the situation is changing. “Though Bihar is the least urbanised of all major states, the pace of urbanisation here has accelerated in recent years,” he said.