‘We never thought a bridge would spell doom for us all’

Villagers said they will be cut off from the city if the crossing, roughly a 50-metre walk, is closed, and thousands of school children, senior citizens, rickshaws and tempos loaded with wares and food items will be forced to take almost a 3 km-long detour instead.

Written by Sarah Hafeez | Varanasi | Updated: March 14, 2018 3:48:47 am
Locals protest at the railway crossing on Tuesday. (Express Photo: Anand Singh)

Hundreds of local residents blocked two trains to prevent authorities from sealing a manned railway crossing in Manduadih on Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a rail overbridge in the area. “We never thought that the inauguration of a bridge will spell doom for us all. We were sleeping when we heard machines digging up the place. We had not been informed,” said Rajesh Singh, an LIC agent and resident of the area. He added that over one lakh people, many of who are railways employees, will be adversely affected if the crossing is closed.

Panic-stricken residents of villages like Adarsh Nagar, Nirala Nagar, Tilsipur, Shivpura, Lahartara, among others, participated in a night-long vigil at the railway crossing on Monday night after they saw workers digging up the area to build a wall, hours after the inauguration of the overbridge nearby.

Villagers said they will be cut off from the city if the crossing, roughly a 50-metre walk, is closed, and thousands of school children, senior citizens, rickshaws and tempos loaded with wares and food items will be forced to take almost a 3 km-long detour instead.

“Mounting that sloped overbridge is not possible for poor people like us who do not own cars or bikes. The markets on this side will lose customers from the other side. Most of us have to go over to the other side for hospital visits, schools, gas connections and other essentials. This will ruin us,” said Pratik Kumar Kanojia, a 20-year-old college student.

Once they got the machines to stop work, villagers sat through the night and intensified protests on Tuesday morning, blocking the Vibhuti Express and several other trains behind it for over two hours till the Railways aborted the sealing drive at around 12 pm on Tuesday.  Additional Divisional Railway Manager (Northeastern Railways) V K Srivastav said using the new overbridge was a “safer” option than the crossing.

“We began closing the crossing since the railway overbridge was inaugurated yesterday. We had all necessary permissions from the district authorities. This crossing is unsafe, the safer option is the rail overbridge. But when they began protesting, the district authorities could not provide enough forces for us to continue construction work. So we have left the crossing untouched as of now. We  will hold further discussions before we can proceed,” he added. He further said, “The distance to the bridge, across it and back is not more than 1 km, though I have not measured it. The  Railways are responsible for building the portion of the bridge above the railway tracks, but the rest of the approach road to the bridge and down is planned and built by the state government.”

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