Bodhgaya traffic plan collides with protest

People march with torches in protest against the new traffic plan, in Bodhgaya on Thursday. Picture by Suman

Gaya: Negotiations between Bodhgaya shopkeepers, residents and the district administration on the vexed new traffic arrangements failed on Thursday with both sides hardening their stand and inching towards confrontation.

Dharmendra Yadav, leader of the group affected by the new traffic plan, proposed a three-day bandh. Senior superintendent of police (SSP) Garima Malik warned the opponents of serious action, including arrest, if they create trouble. Several 100 bandh supporters marched with torchlights through the streets. Reports also talked of minor scuffles between the police and the protesters.

Entry of all kinds of four-wheelers has been banned in a 1km radius around the Mahabodhi temple - high on the terrorist radar - for security and environmental reasons.

The ban came into effect on February 20. Initially two-wheelers, motorised as well as pedalled, were on the ban purview. Officials subsequently exempted two-wheelers, provided the vehicles were not parked in the prohibited zone. Only a limited number of e-rickshaws would be allowed to ply in the restricted zone.

According to SSP Garima Malik, who, along with district magistrate Abhishekh Singh held talks with bandh supporters, a major concession was offered as the administration agreed to relax the new rules and allow vehicles carrying business and other essential items to enter the restricted zone between nine in the evening and five in the morning.

According to the SSP, the bandh supporters rejected the offer. That was the maximum permissible relaxation and now the police will not brook any law-breaking action on the part of anybody in respect of the new traffic arrangement, the SSP said.

Bodhgaya MLA Sarvajeet has requested bandh supporters to reconsider their decision and withdraw the bandh call. "The officials were duly sensitive to the concerns of the local population, but security issues cannot be ignored," the MLA said.


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