| Patliputra Junction wears a deserted look in Patna on Sunday. Picture by Ashok Sinha |
The third biggest railway project in Patna — Patliputra Junction — is all ready but may function only after the Lok Sabha elections.
A tangle between villages, railway authorities and the state government has stopped the junction from becoming operational.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was to inaugurate it on October 31 in the presence of railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge and chief minister Nitish Kumar. But none of the leaders turned up. Two special trains could not be flagged off because residents of Rupaspur and Jalalpur villages, 1km south of Patliputra Junction, sat on the tracks demanding repair of a road and building of a foot over bridge (FOB) in the area. Even now, residents have blocked train movement by hanging a red cloth on a bamboo stick.
A senior East Central Railway official posted at Danapur division said on condition of anonymity: “Patliputra Junction is no more a railway issue, it has become a political one and possibly will become functional only after Lok Sabha polls. Residents will have to wait till June 2014 when a new government takes charge.”
He further said: “Residents are not ready to listen to the railways, neither is the state government co-operating. Some mutual understanding is needed. Railways have spent crores on construction of this junction and to acquire land from the state. Now, a handful of villagers have brought functioning of the junction to a complete halt.”
There is 1km-long stretch of road parallel to the railway track that is in a bad shape. Villagers are demanding its repair and a foot over bridge (FOB) linking it to another road where it ends.
A day after the junction did not keep its inauguration date, Nitish had, at a public function, attacked the railways and said he had intentionally turned down an offer to be part of the inauguration ceremony. He later sympathised with the residents and said the railways were not co-operating with the state government. He had also said that if railways could not repair the road, the state government would do it. For that they should hand over the land to the Bihar government.
After Patna Junction and Rajendra Nagar Terminal, Patliputra Junction is the third major railway station in the capital. Built at Rs 1.5 crore and 12km northwest of Patna Junction, it would reduce load on the two other junctions.
The booking counter at the junction opened on the scheduled inauguration day in October and functioned for a few days. Today, the junction bears a deserted look. All counters and station manager’s office are locked. Staff deputed at the junction have been asked to service other stations for now.
JD(U) leader and Patliputra MP Ranjan Prasad Yadav said: “It was Nitish’s dream to see this junction, he okayed as railway minister, work. But railways are ignoring villagers. Until their demands are met, the junction cannot work.”
Around 25,000 people live in the villages. “We feel sorry the junction can’t function. But the railways have left us with no option. Our demand should be met,” said Ratnesh Kumar of Rupaspur.