The Telegraph
Thursday , July 11 , 2013
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Weak bridges, detour for pilgrims

Kanwariyas have to literally go an extra mile this year on their way to Sultanjganj to fetch Ganga jal.

Two bridges on National Highway (NH) 80 used by kanwariyas to travel to Sultanganj are out of bounds this Sharavani Mela, as they are damaged. The two bridges — Ghorghat and Champanagar Vaina — are usually accessed by the kanwariyas to fetch holy water from Sultanganj and then proceed to Deoghar for offering prayers at the Baidyanath temple. Shravani Mela will be inaugurated at Sultanganj on July 22.

However, the district administration has stopped plying of heavy vehicles with the bridges lying dilapidated for the past year. In spite of high-pitched demands to repair the bridge’s pillars, sources claimed nothing has been done. The result: the administration has prepared alternative routes to enter Sultanganj from the east, west and south that will require the devotees travelling extra distance, up to 120km, taking more time.

“Every year, a large number of kanwariyas travel to Sultanganj in buses and heavy vehicles such as trucks and tractors. But this time, because of the ban on the plying of heavy vehicles on Ghorghat and Champanagar Vaina bridges, traffic has been diverted through other routes. But these are also in dilapidated state,” said Deepak Kumar, a social activist in Sultanganj.

Minhaj Alam, divisional commissioner, Bhagalpur, was unavailable for comment. Sources at his office, however, said alternative routes have been prepared to reach Sultanganj from Munger (west), Bhagalpur (east) and Jharkhand (south).

Those going to Sultanganj from Bhagalpur via NH-80 have to take the Nathnagar-Akbarnagar route. Going through Sajor, Radhanagar, Samastipur and Sahakund, the kanwariyas would have to travel an extra 70km.

From Jharkhand’s side, devotees have to enter Sultanganj from Dakhamore in Banka and then travel through Amarpur-Sajour-Sahakund via Akbarnagar making for an additional 90km travel. Vehicles on their way to Sultanganj from Munger have to take the Bariarpur-Haveli Kharagpur-Tarapur route. This route requires travelling an additional 120km.

Gopal Poddar, a wholesaler of readymade garments in Sultanganj, said: “The extra travel time not only would adversely affect the kanwariyas but the price of the essential goods required for the Shravani Mela would shoot up.”

An official in the divisional commissioner’s office said: “Since the two bridges are under the jurisdiction of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), Bhagalpur division, we can hardly do anything about repairing them. So, alternative routes have been sanctioned for travel to Sultanganj instead of the two bridges.”

Officials of NHAI, Bhagalpur division, were not available for comment.