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Chief minister Nitish Kumar inaugurates the bridge in Saharsa on Saturday. Picture by Mohan Mahato

Baluaha Ghat (Saharsa), Dec. 14: On paper, the new Kosi bridge has cut down the distance between Saharsa and Darbhanga by around 100km but people in the region will hardly get any benefits in reality.

This afternoon, chief minister Nitish Kumar inaugurated the 2.05km bridge — completed a month ahead of its January 14, 2014, deadline — that will benefit at least 2 lakh people in the two districts on either side of the Kosi besides lakhs others who would use it for going from Seemanchal to Mithilanchal region on way to Patna, Samastipur, Muzaffarpur among other towns.

However, neither is the approach road from Gandaul and Biraul complete nor the four small bridges between Baluaha Ghat and Bangaon. The approach road between Gandaul and Hati Kothi in Biraul is under construction. A bridge on the Kamla and 13 other small bridges are also under construction besides 22 culverts on this approach road.

Local residents expect this approach road would not be ready before the Lok Sabha elections — a key reason Nitish inaugurated it in a hurry — but it could take up to one year if the construction work continues at the same pace as was done in the past couple of years.

People from Darbhanga, Saharsa, Madhubani, Supaul and Madhepura had gathered at Gandaul waiting for Nitish to inaugurate the Kosi Mahasetu this afternoon.

“This was unthinkable in the past as we were forced to take a boat to cross the Kosi, which floods villages on its either side every monsoon,” said Mohammad Illiyas, a resident of Supaul.

The public address of Nitish turned out to be an election promise. “Continue to support me and the bridges will be completed,” Nitish said in an apparent reference to the incomplete approach roads and small bridges.

“Completion of the bridge a month ago is nothing but the outcome of people’s sympathy. If your support continues, other bridges would be constructed across the state,” Nitish said, who had laid the bridge’s foundation stone on December 10, 2009. The bridge was constructed by SP Singla Construction Pvt. Ltd, a Haryana-based company.

After the Rs 531.15 crore bridge opens to traffic, the distance between Darbhanga and Saharsa would be around 80km — at least 100km less than what it takes to link the two key towns through Supaul at present.

Besides Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam chairman Pratyaya Amrit, Madhepura MP and JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav was also present at the inauguration.

Shambhoo Das, a resident of Baluaha Ghat, said: “The bridge has not only reduced the distance between Darbhanga and Saharsa but it has also given the chance to revive our old relations on other side of the Kosi. We have now emotionally attached to the bridge because it has eased our work to do business, grow agriculture and maintain good relationship with our friends and relatives on the other side.”

Das, however, added that he had lost land for the project. “The compensation paid by the district authorities for it was far less than what was the actual market rate,” he said.

Banaras Paswan, a resident of Kusheshwar Asthan, who had walked 13km to listen to Nitish said: “The bridge has been constructed but we have to wait more than a year as the approach road and a bridge on the Kamala are yet to be completed.”