Patna Jn. (PNBE): A swanky, new railway station built at the cost of Rs 1.60 crore has been lying unused in Patna for over a year now because of the prolonged protests by local villagers.
The inauguration of the Patliputra Junction – constructed to lessen the traffic load at the city’s main station Patna Junction – has been postponed four times this year following protests by residents of Jalapur and other villages demanding a road through the railway land and a foot overbridge to prevent any mishap in the future.
Angry villagers have resolved that they will not let any train run from the station until their demands are met.
They have also found support from chief minister Nitish Kumar, who said the Bihar government will build the road from its own resources if the railway provided land.
“Our government has been demanding 900 metres of land from the railways to build the road but the railway ministry is not listening to us,” Nitish said.
Nitish was scheduled to attend the inauguration ceremony along with railway minister Mallikarjun Khagre and Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar but none of them turned up because of the protests.
The East Central Railway (ECR) had to cancel the ceremony and move the flagging off of two weekly trains – Patna-Yashwantpur Express and Patna- Chandigarh Express – from Patliputra to Danapur station.
Nitish has since assured the villagers that his government was thinking of a solution but the deadlock continues.
He said the state government had been contributing Rs 300-400 crore towards different railway projects in Bihar but many had been inordinately delayed.
Janata Dal-United MP Ranjan Prasad Yadav, who represents the constituency in the Lok Sabha, said the state road construction department had offered to build the road in 15 days if the railways did not have funds but the Railway officials had not responded.
“The villagers’ demands are justified… They have been living in the area for the past 30- 40 years, long before the new station came up,” he said.
Yadav, in fact, alleged that the railways had earlier floated a tender for construction of the road but the move was abandoned at the behest of local officials.
He claimed it was Nitish who sanctioned the construction of the station when he was the railway minister.
Yadav has lent support to the agitation by locals who have formed their front called Jan Kalyan Sangharsh Morcha consisting of the villagers from Rupaspur, Jalapur, Chulhaichak, Dhanaut and Sabri Nagar.
“We want the Railways to provide us a road as well as a foot overbridge so that nobody is run over by a train,” Surya Prakash, a resident of Rupaspur said.
The Railways, meanwhile, have not decided on the next date of inauguration.
“ECR’s chief public relations officer (CPRO) Amitabh Prabhakar said it was a law and order problem which had to be dealt with by the state government.
“The land for the project has been acquired by the Railways and it has to be developed in keeping with its own needs. Building a public road does not come under the domain of the Railways,” he said.