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Bridge snarl upsets vote plans

Mohammad Furkan, a private firm employee, came all the way from Delhi to vote in Vaishali on Monday but a traffic snarl on the Mahat- ma Gandhi bridge frustrated him.

The Telegraph spotted Furkan on his way to Goroul, around 25km from Hajipur, with wife Rehana and two children around 7.30am. The blistering heat was making it worse. Stuck for hours in the middle of the bridge, connecting Patna with north Bihar, 35-year-old Furkan finally called his relatives to come on motorcycles and rescue him.

“I have been waiting for over two hours as the autorickshaw I hired for Hajipur from Patna Junction got stuck in the traffic snarl. I am in a hurry to reach home as my children are crying,” he said.

Cursing senior government officials, he added: “Last time I visited Goroul (on Id-ul-Fitr in August last year), I faced the same problem. It seems the government is least bothered about the problems faced by the commuters on the bridge.”

He was not the only one upset. Birendra Kumar Yadav, a resident of Siwan and owner of a transport agency in Mumbai, said: “What is more worrisome is that even ambulances carrying the unwell are stuck in the snarl. There are no policemen to help them out.”

Yadav had other worries on his mind too. A relative of Om Prakash Yadav, the BJP candidate in Siwan, he added: “I would have to face the wrath of Om Prakashji, the sitting Siwan MP. He had asked me to go home earlier, and not through Patna. But I had to opt for this route because tickets were unavailable for Muzaffarpur and Hajipur from where it is easier to reach Siwan.”

Around 150km away from Hajipur, it takes more than three hours to reach Siwan by road.

Every commuter stuck on the bridge on Monday had a tale to tell. Rajendra Prasad Singh, a shop owner in Hajipur, said: “There have been reports of traffic snarls on the bridge for the past 72 hours, but it has failed to wake up the police of Vaishali and Patna districts from their slumber. Only agitations and violent protests would force them to take initiatives to restore smooth flow of traffic on the bridge.”

“The policemen drafted to regulate traffic on the Mahatma Gandhi Setu have been assigned election duty. Once the elections are over, they would resume duty on the bridge. Till then, people have to cooperate with the state machinery,” was all that Vaishali superintendent of police Suresh Prasad Choudhary had to say.

The commuters meanwhile blamed the transport department officials and slow repair work on the bridge for aggravating the situation.

Four of the bridge’s span numbers 39 to 42, are damaged and repair work is on for which the stretch between span numbers 34 and 46 have been barricaded.

While the misery of commuters looks to continue for some more time, senior officials and police officers stepped in later on Monday to regulate traffic and vehicles finally started to move around 4pm.