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Our Bureau /
Sahebganj/Manihari : “ Ore Manjhi Mere Sajan Hai Ush Paar……..” the famous song by S D Barman in Bandani in Bollywood movie in seventies perhaps going to be irrelevant on many lips in the sleepy region of north eastern parts of Jharkhand. No passionate lover perhaps would blame the mighty river Ganga for obstructing the ways to reach beloved’s hinterland located other side of the river. The proposed bridge across the river connecting Sahebganj and Monihari in Katihar district in Bihar, would offer an easy short journey.
With laying of the foundation stone for a proposed 22 km’s four lane road over bridge across the river today by prime minister, Narendra Modi, the history of this sleepy region automatically gearing up for a change. Residents who have been fighting for a bridge across the river here since 1962, today heaved a sigh of relief with the laying of foundation stone for it by the prime minister.
“We having been fighting since long and our struggle for the bridge could be a good fiction if someone initiates for writing,” pointed out Manoj Kumar, a resident here. BJP’s MLA, Anant Kumar Ojha recalled how people particularly during poll times used to place their demand for a bridge. “ Earlier in many occasions voters in this Rajmahal Lok Sabha seat even in open letters to the chief election commissioner, used to urge that they be allowed to use the “none of them” option in protest against the delay in laying the foundation of a proposed bridge over the Ganga from Sahebganj to Manihari (Kathihar) in Bihar. ‘Pool nahin, to vote nahin (no bridge no vote),’ screamed banners and wall writings put up by the “Ganga Bridge Banao Sangharsh Samiti,” a citizen’s forum campaigning for the bridge” Ojha recalled.
People of Sahebganj had been demanding a bridge on the Ganges since 1962 and recently pressured the government into conducting a survey.
Old-timers said in 1962, the project was shifted 35 km from Sahebganj at Farakka in neighbouring West Bengal due to the apathetic attitude of the local authorities.
In 1971, largescale ecological disaster and recurring floods in the entire Rajmahal subdivision after the construction of the barrage fanned people’s anger.
“People of Malda in West Bengal benefited while the economy of Rajmahal was ravaged,’’ alleged Niraj Kumar, a social worker in Barharwa town.
Kumar recalled how former legislator of Rajmahal Assembly constituency, late Nathmal Dokania, staged a seven-day hungerstrike outside the Bihar Assembly in Patna for the rehabilitation of the Farakka oustees on the Rajmahal side.
“People having more than 50 acres of lands became bonded labourers in Punjab as floods and non-availability of water for irrigation here changed the crop pattern,” he said. “The bridge is our genuine demand and it should be built to compensate for the loss to the region by the Farakka barrage,’’ chorused Ashok Yadav of Jamnagar.
According to Md. Sujaduiin, a resident at Sahebganj town said former chief minister Babulal Marandi had promised to lay the foundation stone of the proposed bridge on January 26, 2002 at Sahebganj. “It was unfortunate that Marandi had to step down. His successors right from Arjun Munda to Shibu Soren, Hement Soren however was failed for it. Firebrand Godda MP, Nishi Kant Dubey who had taken interests for the bridge at Sahebganj, last year announced and today the prime minister reached here for it,” he said.
Recalling old days Arvind, the convener of the Sahebganj unit, described who the fate of the bridge was hanging into balance. Some were demanding it at Rajmahal township but it was not justified to demand a bridge across the river at Rajmahal since the existing Farakka bridge was barely 15 km from the site. Besides, a bridge at Rajmahal would connect Malda, whereas one in Sahebganj would link Nepal though Bihar’s Katihar district to Jharkhand, he added.
S N Adhakari, a college teacher in Sahebganj, said the bridge would restore the lost glory of the Sahebganj town, which lost its status with the shifting of all important railway offices to Malda and the withdrawal of the government ferry service from Sahebganj to Manihari (in Bihar). While echoing Adhakari, Kishore Singh, a farmer at Katihar district in Bihar said the bridge which would connect entire Jharkhand region to north-eastern corridor, would also be fruitful for the residents in Bihar side. “We are deeply associated with Jharkhand side also and for our association with the areas there we have to visit the place frequently. But ferry across the river is indeed a changing job for many of us, now would automatically accessible for us due the bridge,” he said.