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Woes galore, hope floats ‘Change’ drives voters to polling booths

Champanagar (Bhagalpur) Aug. 21: Bibi Fatima (37), a homemaker, did not prepare breakfast for her husband and kids on Thursday, so excited was she about casting her vote.

The hope for change is so strong, she virtually forgot the pain in their daily lives thanks to years of neglect by public representatives. “We’ve heard the Narendra Modi government is keen to change our fate. The Union budget promised a textile mega cluster in Bhagalpur. We are voting in the hope things will really change,” said Fatima’s husband and weaver Mohammad Najir (42).

Civic amenities remain a problem, but around 2,600 voters (1,300 women) cast their votes at Medininagar, dominated by weavers in ward no. 4 here. In nearby Babupur (Booth No 221), over 1,200 voters boycotted polls over lack of basic facilities like drinking water, roads, drainage system. By end of day, Bhagalpur recorded 38 per cent voting.

“For the last 40 years, public representatives have been assuring us they would solve our problems, but nothing has happened,” said Binay Gupta.

“Our booths (No 5 & 6) are at Mahashay Deori, over 2.5 km away. The booths are in our locality during ward council elections. But, we have no idea why they shift the booths during Assembly and Lok Sabha polls,” said Mohammad Noor Alam, a weaver here. Mohammad Nihaluddin (76) said residents hired three autorickshaws at Rs 1,500 each for the day and five rickshaws at Rs 600 each to ferry voters to the booths.

Many riot-affected weavers too have settled down here after 1989. “We don’t have a single school here. Our kids walk over 2.5 km daily to school,” said Razia Khatoon.

Mohammad Arshad (49), a weaver, said, earlier, residents had to depend on the pump house in ward No 3 (Champanagar) for drinking water but supply has stopped in the past eight months, as the pumping station is now defunct. “It’s flood time. The southern part of our locality is submerged. But we have to depend on contaminated water from our hand pump sets,” said Mohammad Naimuddin (67).

“During Lok Sabha polls, the RJD candidate from Bhagalpur, Bulo Mandal, assured he would solve our problems. But our problems remain,” said Mohammad Alamgir. “We have been waiting for change and hope this time change comes to our doorsteps. Let us see what happens,” said Mohammad Noor Alam (79).