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RSS Feature: The unfulfilled dream to board train for Biwaha Panchami

By Gopal Prashad Baral, MAHAOTTARI:- The long cherished dream of the people of Mahottari and Dhanusha districts to take a ride on the train of the Janakpur-Jayanagar railway service during the Biwaha Panchami celebrations has eluded them once again.
Siyankidevi Bantar of Bhangaha Municipality-4 Palar Basti had always wanted to board train. Her desire to board train since last two decades has been unfulfilled as the railway has not yet started its service.
”The railway station was within 10 meters distance,” said 45-year-old Bantar remembering her mesmerizing experience of boarding rail until 2057 BS, ”Ever since the caving of the Baggi bridge, I have not been to take part in the Biwaha Panchami festivities at Janakpur.” She said she has heard about the resumption of the railway service but she said everything has turned out to be false dashing away her dream to board rail during Biwaha Panchami festival.
Siyankidevi is not the lone local to feel so. Another community elder Chauthi Sardar also shared similar sentiment. She said dysfunctional railway system has washed away her desire to take part in Biwaha Panchami festival. The 75-year-old Sardar said she wanted to participate in the annual festival once the railway system is resumed. Mahottari and other surrounding districts observe Biwaha Panchami as the special cultural festival. People finish their household chores days before the festival day.
”People of all age brackets would frequent Janakpur to participate at Biwaha Panchami festival,” said Kameshwor Jha, a Mithila culture expert who has been observing the festival closely since long. ”Railway travel to the festival venue at Janakpur would entertain everyone.” The 70-year-old said the crowd to participate started to downsize since the start of armed conflict of 2052 BS and the craze of Biwaha Panchami decreased after railway service was ceased to the west of Janakpur since 2058 BS. He said young generation is not much interested on the festival reducing its popularity.
The westernmost station of the railway reaching up to Loharpatti, Balawa, Bhangaha and Aurahi municipality area is called Bijalpura Station. Previously the daily railway commutation would be done three times a day for five days, remembered 70-year-old Mohan Mahato of Bhoil Basti.
As the news of resumption of the railway is making rounds in the locality, Ramrati Sada of Loharpatti is eager to once again participate at Biwaha Panchami festival travelling by rail. Sadha is excited to hear about railway service resumption. It was said to have resumed railway service in 2074 BS on the occasion of Biwaha Panchami from Jayanagar of India to Kurtha of Janakpur of Dhanusa district.
Previously the 34-kilometer-long railway track now has extended up to Bijalpura of Mahottari. Now, 51-kilometer-long railway is almost ready to be functional. However, various obstacles have hampered to do so.
”Railway track is ready, engine and railcars are enveloped with tent since two years,” said Nagendra Chaudhary of Loharpatti-4. ”It is said the railway service is not operational thanks mainly to legal hurdles. Nobody knows why legal problem is there when everything is ready for the operation of the railway service.” Chaudhary said the parked engine and railcar at Inaruwa station of Dhanusa must be made operational by active initiations of both Federal and Provincial Governments.
Out of the 69-kilometer-long railway track from Janakpur to Jayanar, officials at Railways Department had said that railway service would be resumed from Jayanagar to Kurtha in the first phase. However, this has not happened so far. Even after the preparation of 17-kilometer-long Kurtha to Bijalpura station, there is no sign of railway service operation, complained the locals.
Should the railway service be functional, local farmers of Loharpatti, Bhangaha and Balwa municipality and Pipara rural municipality of Mahottari are of the hope to export agricultural products of their locality to the Indian markets. ”We grow both seasonal and off-seasonal vegetables but we are tired of not getting adequate market,” said Hasim Kawari, a farmer of Balwa-10. ”After the resumption of the railway service, we can directly export our agricultural products to Jayanagar. We can also export dairy products.”
Shailendra Yadav, the Mayor of Loharpatti Municipality, said the railway service would facilitate direct connectivity of his municipality to Jayanagar of India. ”Most of the dense settlements of our municipality are close to the railway track,” said mayor Yadav, adding that the railway service would enhance the livelihoods of local farmers and local products would fetch good market.
Sanjeev Kumar Shah, the mayor of Bhangaha Municipality, also said all settlements of the municipality and parts of Bardibas Municipality are not so far from Bijalpura station which would encourage the local farmers to increase the production.
Along the 51-kilometer-long stretch, first section starting from Jayanagar to Kurtha and second section starting from Kurtha to Bijalpura are accomplished by laying railway track and constructing railway station. The 18-kilometer-long third section starting from Bijalpura to Bardibas has not started yet. The land acquisition and the compensation to the people is unfinished task at this stretch.
As the Government has fixed the compensation rate for Bardibas 1, 2 and 14 areas, it is hoped to gain the momentum of the project. Still, none has been compensated at Bardibas Ward number 6 and 7 and Bhangaha Ward Number 4 despite its rate fixation in 2076 BS.
In fact, it is expected that number of compensation claimants would be increased as the rate has been fixed in Bardibas area by the Nepal Government. ”The ongoing construction would not be hampered based on whether landowner come for compensation or not”, said Upendra Neupane, Assistant Chief District Officer of Mahottari, ”We have already requested Railway Department to proceed the construction.”
Renukumari Yadav, Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport, has claimed that railway from Jayanagar to Bijalpura would start within 2078 BS. Yadav said required ordinance has been issued to do the same. ”We had scheduled to operate the railway service from coming Biwaha Panchami”, Minister Yadav told to the journalists on Tuesday, ”Some legal hurdles did not support for this schedule. However, we will operate the service within this year.” She said all process is readied to issue ordinance. She assured of operation of the first and second section and speedy construction of the third section.
The broad gauge extension was started since 2014 with Rs. 7.2 billion economic assistance by India. The 51-kilometer-long Bijalpur-Janakpur-Jayanagar railway service was started since 1994 BS. The floods of 2058 BS badly damaged Baggi bridge of Loharpatti of Mahottari causing disruption to the service. Before this railway service, in 1984 BS, Chandra Shumsher had run Raxaul- Amalekhgunj railway service.
For Janakpur-Jayanagar railway service, the service was ceased in 2070 BS after upgradation works was started ever since. This important national project was scheduled to complete in 2019. However, according to Railway Department, political upheavals, floods and land acquisition works has repeatedly excelled its stated deadlines. RSS

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