Truck driver Bipul Sharma heaved a sigh of relief around 12noon on Sunday and set off for Guwahati after the blockade on National Highway 80 was lifted.
Lakhisarai Truck Owners’ Association had blocked the highway at Vidhyapith Chowk, Dariapur, Rampur and Barhiya from early on Saturday morning to protest the burning of 20 trucks and vandalising of a dozen others. A mob had been on the rampage on the highway passing through Lakhisarai town ever since a truck ran over a bike-borne couple on Friday night.
“I reached Lakhisarai around 9.40pm on Friday and found the entire town tensed. I parked my vehicle loaded with onions at a safe distance near the district magistrate’s office. We did not get any food to eat since Saturday and my helper, Rajendar, fell sick,” Bipul said.
Like Bipul, hundreds of truck drivers, whose vehicles were stuck in the blockade, left for their destinations on Sunday morning.
Traffic movement was paralysed on NH-80, which is a lifeline connecting Mokama and Farakka in Bengal through Bhagalpur, Munger, Begusarai, Jamui and Sheikhpura. It also links Patna with Sahibganj, Deoghar and Giridih districts of Jharkhand. Vehicles stood still for more than 15km in the north, south-east and west directions of Lakhisarai.
District magistrate Amrendra Prasad Singh told the media: “We have assured Bihar Truck Owners’ Association (BTOA), of which Lakhisarai Truck Owners’ Association is a member, that the administration would try to help settle their claims with insurance companies fast.”
Superintendent of police Rajeev Mishra said: “Raids are on to arrest 16 people named in the FIR for spreading violence along with 100 others. We would try to get the cases disposed of in a fast-track court. Special traffic management would be in place to avoid any such incident in the town.”
BTOA president Ramanand Singh said: “We have withdrawn the strike after receiving the district administration’s assurance and considering public inconvenience. If the administration fails to fulfil our demands within a week, we would again block the highway for an indefinite period.” According to Singh, the mob destroyed property worth more than Rs 25 crore.
Employees of Sadar hospital, who began pen-down strike since Saturday, stayed away from work on Sunday too. They were protesting their manhandling by the mob and the accident victim’s attendants, who forcefully picked up an on-duty doctor to accompany them to Patna Medical College and Hospital.