Boat is only link to outside world in Lalu’s Raghopur

Boat is only link to outside world in Lalu’s Raghopur

By NAVTAN KUMAR | Raghopur, Vaishali, Bihar | 26 September, 2015
Passengers on a boat going from Raghopur to Kachchi Dargah ghat in Patna. PHOTO: Navtan Kumar
In Raghopur, Nitish Kumar’s claim of having made Patna a smooth six-hour drive from every part of the state falls flat on its face. Worse, Patna is located just across the river from Raghopur.

Raghopur, the constituency from where Tejashwi Yadav, younger son of Lalu Prasad Yadav is contesting the Bihar Assembly elections, is a picture of government apathy. This area, surrounded from all sides by the Ganges, remains an "island" even after 68 years of Independence, without even a bridge connecting it to the "mainland". And this in spite of Raghopur being the constituency of two former Chief Ministers, Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife Rabri Devi. There is a "Pipa Pul" here, which is a temporary bridge for pedestrians and two-wheelers. It gets dismantled whenever the water level of the Ganga rises and functions for six months or so in a year. A bridge is a major poll demand in these parts.

In Raghopur, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's claim of having made Patna a smooth six-hour drive from every part of the state falls flat on its face. Worse, Patna is located just across the river from Raghopur. In fact many of Raghopur's villages do not even have electricity, and the roads here are a bumpy PCC — "plain cement concrete".

Boats ferry passengers to Raghopur from Kachchi Dargah ghat near Patna Sahib for Rs 10 per head. But the wait for the boat to start can be anything between 15 to 30 minutes as it's loaded with sacks of food grains, vegetables and fertilizers. The better-off can pay Rs 200-300 and "reserve" a boat to reach Raghopur fast.

"It's a punishment for me as I have been posted in a primary school in Raghopur," said a teacher, who, along with three colleagues, was waiting for a boat. "I stay at Patna's Rajendra Nagar and commute to Raghopur every day. I do not have a choice. I have to keep my job," he said.

When asked why he was not staying in Raghopur, he snapped: "Are you joking? Is this a place to live? Suppose something happens to me in the night and I will not even be able to reach the PMCH (Patna Medical College Hospital) as the boat service stops in the evening." Raghopur's isolation has kept its literacy level stagnant at 33%. Students do not have any option but to go to either Patna or Hajipur for "higher" education".

"It's a nightmare to live in Raghopur. Unless the area is connected to Patna by a proper bridge, we cannot think of anything else. Ten years ago, Nitish Kumar promised that he would sanction a bridge after becoming Chief Minister, but he did nothing," said Akhilesh Singh, a farmer.

Yadavs and the Rajputs dominate Raghopur's total population of 1.87 lakh people. But there is no enthusiasm on the ground for Tejashwi Yadav here. "He is a big man. Will he have time for us, after he wins?" asked a young man sitting at a teashop near Raghopur police station. His friend crackled in laughter: "Will he even be able to ride the boat to Raghopur? But then he can always take a helicopter." However, Tejashwi's caste men seem inclined towards him.

The BJP has so far not announced its candidate, but is likely to field Satish Kumar, the sitting MLA from JDU, who recently joined the BJP after being denied a ticket. Raghopur goes to the polls on 28 October.

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