Water is a poll issue in mythological city of Gaya

The issue of water has always been a potent tool of politics. It is all the more so when it is river water.

Quite is the ambience of sacred serene Phalgu, the mythological river in the holy city of Gaya, which finds frequent mention in Indian religious texts, including the Ramayana. Phalgu is antahsalila (flowing within) and has a dry riverbed, giving an impression of a desert patch in nine out of 12 months in a year. According to Hindu mythology, the river was cursed that it will have no water on its bed and will flow only inwards, by goddess Sita, when he did not testify to her offering pinddaan for her father-in-law Dashrath.

The river, which is called Niranjana in ancient texts and equally revered by Buddhists, has turned a hotbed of politics in this sultry summer as Gaya Parliamentary seat of ancient Magadh region goes to polls on April 11. The politics is over water, which is fast turning into a scarce commodity in a number of residential areas in the city with the water table going down alarmingly and ponds and water bodies having fallen prey to land Mafiosi as the concrete jungle grows, devouring the natural habitat.

The river, despite no water over-ground, is a life line for residents of Gaya and Jehanabad districts. Most of the pumping stations installed along the river bank supply water to residential areas. 

Nitish cuts ice

So, when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday promised to construct beer dam on Phalgu to ensure round the year water flow on the otherwise dry riverbed, it did cut ice with residents, who have for years been agitating for such a move.
They felt that this will also help resolve the water crisis due to which posh colonies of Gaya have become uninhabitable.

Rishikesh Gurda, a member of the influential Panda community of Vishnupad, the holy Hindu seat of Lord Vishnu, says with exasperation: “Human defecation on the dry river bed and drain water flowing into the river have made ablutions during religious rituals tough, besides raising an unbearable stink. The beer dam at Kandi Nawada, the last stretch of the river towards Jehanabad as promised by former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi or at Beetho Sharif area as promised by Nitish Kumar, can resolve the problem.”

It is also a fact that thousands of households have encroached both the riversides. A PIL was filed in Patna High Court against this rampant encroachment. 

But who will bell the cat and antagonise thousands of voters in election season, when the contest is turning into a watertight one and even a small margin of vote can tilt the balance. JD-U’s candidate Vijay Manjhi, however, promises he would take up the issue with the state government after elections.

 

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