A herd of goats rambles at the far end of the platform while stray dogs curl up on the floor near the ticket counter. There are no train arrival-departure announcements and the stationmaster’s room is locked.
The only human presence is a man sleeping on the dusty ground, his snores tearing through the silence at this railway terminal in former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad’s ancestral village, Phulwaria.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) founder, who is gearing up for an uphill battle with a BJP-led alliance in the assembly election beginning next month, inaugurated this train station seven years ago when he was the federal railway minister.
But, today, the once-spanking terminal is a picture of desolation with just one train and few passengers, leading to disillusionment in the village about infrastructure projects that took off with much fanfare but went nowhere.
“A single train runs from this platform which leaves for Hajipur at around 5.30am when about 50 people travel,” says a local resident. “But when the train returns in the evening, less than a dozen people alight as it gets very late.”
Several local residents say they are unhappy with the RJD because of the patchy development in the village, but insist they will support Prasad as he is one of them.
“We don’t have an option,” says Phulwaria resident Virender Yadav. “Even if we vote for some other party they would think we picked the RJD like in the past.”
When the train station was unveiled, Basant, who goes by one name, thought it would change his fortunes as he planned to open a shop on a strip of land he held nearby.
“But where are the customers?” he says. “Lalu Prasad did a lot of infrastructure development here. However, for the youth the main issue is employment, which has still not been addressed.”
Around a kilometre from the train terminal is a helipad which was financially backed by the RJD chief’s son-in-law, former parliamentarian Subhash Yadav. Once the buzz of helicopters made the entire village flock here to welcome Prasad, or his wife and former chief minister, Rabri Devi.
Now, local children play traditional sports at the site. The last chopper lifted off from here in 2005.
The condition of the railway station and helipad point to the diminishing clout of the family in Bihar’s politics with Prasad playing second fiddle to chief minister and one-time rival Nitish Kumar in the grand alliance that will take on the NDA.
But his ancestral village has not given up on the RJD chief.
“Because of Laluji, the world got to know about Phulwaria,” says a teacher at a local school.
At the centre of the village is the school building. In the absence of classrooms, children of three classes (1,2, and 3) have been asked to sit together and a single teacher teaches three classes assembled together. Similarly another teacher is teaching Class 4 and 5 under the same roof.
“It is very difficult but there is a crunch of space. The place where school building was earlier still had more rooms. A temple has now been made there,” said Vidyawati, a teacher at the school.