| A truck plies on the dilapidated NH-80 near Sabour in Bhagalpur. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Vipul Sharma, a Class VI student of a school in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), has refused to visit his maternal grandparents in Bhagalpur this winter vacation. Reason: bad roads.
Vipul will miss a family function. But he still has not forgotten a road accident in the heart of Bhagalpur that left him with a broken hand last year. He told his grandparents he would not visit them until the dilapidated roads are repaired, said his maternal uncle Chanchal Kumar.
It is not just with Vipul. Like him, many others have started avoiding Bhagalpur for the same reason. It is difficult to accept Bhagalpur as a part of Bihar because roads in other parts of the state are comparatively better, said Alok Kumar Gupta, marketing sales officer of a reputed company, who gets to travel a lot across Bihar.
Important roads here, like the stretch of NH-80 from Munger to Pirpainty that passes trough the heart of the city, the Bhagalpur-Dumka-Deoghar road, the Bhagalpur-NH-31 road via Vikramshila bridge across the Ganga, not to forget the roads inside the city are all accident-prone. The central government had sanctioned Rs 240 crore for a bypass in 2012 but the department concerned is yet to issue a tender. The road construction department even failed to repair an alternative bypass road.
It takes 6-7 hours to reach Kahalgaon from Bhagalpur, just 38km away. “You can’t imagine how long it takes to reach Naugachia because of the jam on Vikramshila bridge,” said Md Najir, who works for a travel agency here.
Roads remain on top of the agenda of most political parties. Soon after the NDA split in June, BJP MLA from Bhagalpur city, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, had launched an agitation to throw light on the condition of roads. During the stir, agitators rang “pagla ghanti (alarm bells)” on the streets. BJP’s Bhagalpur MP Shahnawaz Hussain, too, took part in agitations.
Even JD(U) MLAs, Gopal Mandal from Gopalpur and Ajay Mandal from Nathnagar, have blamed the government for its failure to repair the roads. Gopal Mandal had recently announced a blockade of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s motorcade during his visit here en route to Naugachia. But the chief minister took a chopper to Naugachia.
On May 2, school students formed a human chain across the city to protest the death of Addya Vaishnavi, a Class 3 student of Mount Assisi School, on April 28. A truck ran over Addya at Tilkamanjhi Chak while she was on her way to school. The driver failed to control the truck because of the damaged condition of the road.
Over 57 people have lost their lives in various road mishaps here in 2013. Bad roads are to blame for 90 per cent of the accident deaths. Officers concerned keep giving assurances but have done precious little.