The Telegraph
Wednesday , September 4 , 2013
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Train, boat saviour for deluge victims

People board a boat at Manihari Ghat in Katihar to travel to Sahibganj in Jharkhand and the flood special train at Bhagalpur station on Tuesday. Pictures by Mohan Mahato and Amit Kumar

Train and boat services have emerged as saviours for commuters in flooded regions of the state this monsoon.

Indian Railways has brought in a special train to serve the flood-affected people in eastern Bihar allowing them to reach work and earn a livelihood without worrying about transport hurdles.

The Jamalpur-Sahibganj flood special diesel multiple unit (DMU) train via Bhagalpur started operations on the Kiul-Sahebganj loop section from Monday.

The DMU leaves Jamalpur in Munger district at 7am. After stopping at all the stations and halts on the way, the train reaches Sahibganj in Jharkhand at 12noon. On its return journey, it leaves around 1pm from Sahibganj.

The Telegraph hopped on the train from Bhagalpur around 9.30am to determine the people’s reaction to the alternative mode of transport in the flood-ravaged areas.

Rupesh Yadav, a resident of Kamarganj village in Bhagalpur district, said: “The train has come as a great relief to us. The flood has snapped the road link to Bhagalpur town. My wife and elder son are suffering from fever and I had to take them to Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital. Since the special train stops at all the stations and halts on the way, we were able to take it from Gangania station (in Sultanganj).”

Divisional railway manager, Malda, Ravinder Gupta said: “As an alternative to the road network, which has been snapped because of the floods, the special DMU train has been introduced from Jamalpur to Sahibganj on the Kiul-Sahebganj loop section under Eastern Railway’s Malda division from September 2. At present, the train leaves from Jamalpur to reach Sultanganj, from where it goes to Bhagalpur and then Sahibganj. It takes the same route back to Jamalpur. We are trying to increase the train’s service on this loop section.”

The service, as much as it is now, has come as a huge boon to the people in the areas the train travels through.

For instance, a group of office-goers with work in Bhagalpur are happy.

“We used to take the road to work in Bhagalpur but because of floods, the entire network has gone for a toss. In this situation, this special train has been helpful in reaching work in time,” said Kumud Kumar, a resident of Sultanganj, who works in a private company in Bhagalpur. By road, it takes Kumud an hour to reach his office, around 28km away. By train, it takes him almost the same time.

At Manihari Ghat in Katihar district, the steamer and boat services are indispensable for commuters avoiding a circuitous route to Sahibganj town in Jharkhand.

Everyday, over a thousand people cross the river on rickety steamers and risky boats from the ghat, which is around 315km northeast of Patna, to save time and money. They pay Rs 26 as one-way steamer fare and Rs 10 for a boat ride to avoid a 250-km detour by road and train spending approximately Rs 300. The steamer ride takes one hour, boat two-and-a-half hours, while the road-rail journey takes six to seven hours.

There is no direct transportation among Katihar, Purnea, Kishanganj, Araria, Madhepura and Saharsa districts of Bihar and Sahibjanj town in Jharkhand.

Purnea resident Sujeet Kumar uses the steamer twice a week to go to Sahibganj town, where he works for a nationalised bank. “I get a weekly off. Since Sahibganj is not a good town to keep my family, I visit my native place, Purnea, every week. The steamer often breaks down while crossing the Ganga. People suffer injuries while boarding the steamer but we do not have any option,” he said.

Despite the risky rides from Manihari Ghat, there is no proper arrangement to avert untoward incidents. Pashuram Paswan, a trained diver of Tanti Tola of Manihari, said: “We took training in saving lives but we have not been given any life-saving kit such as lifeboats and jackets. We do not get any fixed pay even. Then, how can we stay at the ghat?” said Paswan.

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