Bhagalpur has a population of 410,210,with males constituting 54% of the population and females 46% and has an average literacy rate of 81.16 per cent.
Nestling on the southern bank of the Ganges, it is the third largest city and one of the major commercial centres of Bihar.The city was termed as one of the biggest trade hub in Eastern India by Chinese visitors, especially Xuanzang and Faxian wayback in the 7th century.
The city is known for silk industry that was once a major producer of Tussar Silk and Tussar Sarees. However, over the years, the industry has been grappling with the erratic power supply which has forced many weavers to sell their power-looms. The Bihar Spunk Silk Mill stopped production 15 years back owing to non- payment of salary to its employees.
The thermal plant at NTPC Kahalgaon, also falls under Bhagalpur district, which forms the backbone of the eastern region’s power generation sector.
However, currently, the city grapples with acute electricity shortage and the local residents are disillusioned with their public representatives.
“Whoever wins, we have always lost on all fronts. Water and electricity crisis have become an everyday problem and we don’t trust anyone.” says 35-year-old Sonu Singh living in the Tilkamanjhi area.
“Modiji didn’t announce a special package for weavers. We got disappointed as governments have completely ignored the plight of weavers and weaving industry in the city,” said Rajesh Sahu (another local resident).
The owners of some of the power-looms have no money to run them and they have got no help either from the Central government or it State counterpart.
Other problems include frequent traffic jams that could have been averted by building bypasses. “It has been years since we have been hearing about construction of bypass but nothing has been done in reality.” says Upendra Sharma who runs a small shop in the Ghantaghar area.
And,of late, there have been reports of more accidents owing to poor quality of roads. The road from Sultanganj to Pirpainti exemplifies the report card of MPs of Bhagalpur who often make tall claims.
However, the good part of the story is that construction of NH 80 is underway.
Bhagalpur, a birth place of eminent scholars like Suchitra Bhaattacharya and Ashish Nnandy, is grappling with paucity of funds for its colleges and universities.
Many students expressed concerns over the plight of Vikramshila University which despite many promises is still awaiting help.
“How can our city be smart unless students living here are smarter,” a student of the TNB college said when asked about Bhagalpur being listed in the smart city project by the present Central Government. “Until and unless basic needs like electricity, roads, and water are not provided, any other big promise appears hollow to us,” he added.
Last year, the high profile face of BJP, Shahnawaz Hussein, lost a close contest to a novice Shailesh Kumar alias Bhulo Mandal in the very same way Bhagwat Jha Azad, a Congress veteran and a five time Bhagalpur MP, lost to Chunchun Yadav of the Janata Party in 1989.
Experts attribute Shahnawaz’s defeat to Modi’s projection as aPM candidate whom Muslims consider responsible for the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. And, perhaps, it was minorities’ disenchantment with the Congress in the aftermath of Bhagalpur riots that played a crucial role in Bhagwat Jha’s debacle.
Others attribute local anti-incumbency to be the reason behind Shahanwaz’s defeat while some cite internal factionalism within the BJP for his exit. Some even say that Bhulo Mandal could trounce Shahanwaz owing to his being from the Gangota caste that is around 3 lakh in numbers settled in the Manigachi sub-division across the Ganga.
Despite many odds, many credit Nitish Kumar for restoring law and order in the city which had once witnessed infamous ‘Ankh Fodwa Kand’ or the blinding episode in Bhagalpur Jail and ‘1989 Bhagalpur riots’.
Post 1989 Bhagalpur riots, the city has not witnessed any such untoward incident in two decades,’’ point out local residents with some sense of relief.
With Assembly elections being underway now, the city still hopes to see some ‘Aachche din’ for the city can become smart only when residents get electricity, roads and industries as per them.