Blessed with five rivers, a baked Banka gasps for irrigation, drinking water - Hindustan Times

Blessed with five rivers, a baked Banka gasps for irrigation, drinking water

ByAditya Nath Jha, Banka
Apr 22, 2024 08:56 PM IST

Banka has 10 candidates in the fray, but the main fight is between sitting JD-U MP Giridhari Yadav and RJD nominee Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav.

Sanjeev Yadav, a farmer from Khiddi village in Rajoun block of Banka district, is worried by the scorching Sun in April. “This is really frightening. If it does not rain, everything will be lost,” he says.

ejashwi Yadav addresses a rally in Banka. (HT)
ejashwi Yadav addresses a rally in Banka. (HT)

Surendra Mohan Singh, a farmer from Sultanganj, has similar fears. “The sizzling summer has started causing cracks in our field and we are afraid we’ll lose both our crops and land,” he says.

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Like any other constituency, Banka has myriad problems, but lack of irrigation facilities is the top concern in the rural areas of the district.

“We are still dependent on monsoon rains as there are hardly any irrigation facilities here. Another problem is the rampant illegal sand mining under the nose of police and administration,” says Pratap Narayan Rao from Rajoun.

Raghvendra Singh, a farmer of Singhwan village, says, “We grow mainly paddy crops. However, some farmers have mustered courage and started growing maize. But without proper irrigation, we can’t get as much produce as we expect and we are slowly and steadily losing our fertile land.”

Banka is blessed with rivers Belharni and Barua, which flow in the north-western part of the district, and Chanan and Orhni, which flow through the middle of the district. River Cheer meets Chanan in the north-eastern of Mandar Giri. The plains of Banka are formed by several streams of these rivers. “But during the last few years, these rivers have been facing shortage of water due to less rainfall, affecting the prospects of farming badly,” says Pratap Narayan Rao a farmer.

In several areas of the district, the water table has dived, leaving the wells and hand pumps dry. On Saturday last week, dozens of women stormed Shambhuganj block headquarters with empty utensils, demanding water. “With parched throat, we can’t cast our votes,” was their refrain.

“The government has done almost nothing for irrigation facilities and reining in the sand mining mafia in Banka,” says Sanjeev Yadav, a local.

Talking of castes, Yadavs and Rajputs hold sway in the constituency, which has been a stronghold of socialists. The constituency is also known for its rich tribal culture and one assembly segment is reserved for the candidates of scheduled tribes.

Madhu Limye, renowned socialist and follower of Ram Manohar Lohia, won the Banka seat twice, in(1973 and 1977. However, another socialist veteran, George Fernandes, bit the dust here twice. Congress leader Chandrashekhar Singh, the 16th chief minister of Bihar, had also successfully contested Lok Sabha polls here in 1980 and 1985.

“Yes, we have had a glorious past, but we can’t drag on this for long with parched land,” Sanjeev Yadav says.

“A ceramic factory was built three km from Banka town in 1984 when Chandrashekhar Singh was the chief minister of Bihar, but sadly, he died and with him the factory too,” locals say, blaming successive RJD and JD-U governments for not giving any attention to its revival.

By local accounts, the factory had then aimed to provide at least 10,000 jobs.

Government officials have no information about this factory, which was built in the 1980s at a cost of 10 crore. “No, I have no idea, if we get any order from the department in this regard, the work to revive the factory will start,” district industrial extension officer (DIO) Mohammad Jakir Hussain said.

Banka has 10 candidates in the fray, but the main fight is between sitting JD-U MP Giridhari Yadav and RJD nominee Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav.

Voters are a bit confused. There is some resentment against Giridhari Yadav, who also won the seat in 2004 on RJD ticket and was later defeated by Digvijay Singh. In 2019, he won the seat on JD-U ticket. Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav won the seat in 2014 on RJD ticket.

“Between the two, any one can win, but the substantial Rajput population always holds a sway in the electoral contest here,” says Ram Pratap Singh, a local.

Banka parliamentary constituency consists of six assembly segments — Amarpur, Dhoraiya (SC), Banka, Belhar, Katoriya (ST) and Sultanganj.

Sultanganj falls in Bhagalpur district.

Except Dhoraiya, all five seats are with the NDA.

Banka goes to vote on April 26 in the second phase of seven-phase parliamentary polls, along with Bhagalpur, Purnea, Kishanganj and Katihar in Bihar.

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