Voters of Biratnagar say: Development not assurance


Narayan Prasad Ghimire 
It may be surprising for many to know that construction of a ring road that began in the industrial city of Biratnagar is yet to be completed 18 years since it began.

And that is a matter of real concern for the residents here as such large-scale development projects remain in a limbo even though all the political parties’ are unanimous about making Biratnagar the capital of Province number one.

It is more than surprising that the then Minister for Physical Planning and Works Bijaya Kumar Gachchadar who laid the foundation of the 42-kilometer ring road 18 years ago has been elected to become deputy prime minister and minister in several governments for dozens of times, and formed and joined many political parties since then. But even the track of the ring road is not completed as of yet.

As December 7 election to the House of Representatives and State Assemblies is less than a week far, candidates of various political parties are busy visiting people at their door steps, holding rallies and mass meetings with more assurances of development. But the voters are skeptical about them.

“Main roads are full of dust and smoke while the inner lanes are yet to be expanded despite being a major city, inundation is a regular scene every monsoon and there is no proper place for amusement,” says hotel entrepreneur Sundar Bhandari.

Meena Chettri, also living in the market area of Biratnagar, says she is looking forward to voting this Thursday but is concerned that leaders are least bothered about ensuring basis amenities like roads and drainage in the city area. “How long do we have to endure water logging and inundation every year”?

The voters here however agreed that Morang district which has produced around half a dozen prime ministers is taking strides in the field of education and health.

Local journalist Bikram Niroula is of the view that the pace of development and prosperity in Biratnagar would have accelerated, had the ring road been completed on time. “The water from Melamchi is about to arrive in Kathmandu but there is no sight of the ring road here,” says another journalist Uddav Ghimire.

They are also of the view that it is a clash of interest of the political leaders that the pace of development is not as much as promised in the political speeches and the election manifestoes. Morang district is home to very senior and renowned politicians, including many prime ministers and ministers.

This time too senior leaders like Nepali Congress’ Dr Shekhar Koirala, former Finance Minister Mahesh Acharya and former Minister Dr Minendra Rijal, UML’s former Minister Lal Babu Pandit, Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal among others are in the election race.

Divided into six constituencies, there are 644,000 voters in the district, which is one of the highest among the districts in the country.

Voters here were found speculating a win or loss for the leaders based on their clean political image, access to the people, contribution to development, relations with the center, intellectual capacity, hold in party organization and popularity among their respective party cadres.

A conscious voter on condition of anonymity said, “this time in Morang some tourist leaders are contesting the polls, some that have come from outside while some are tourists from within the district itself.”

Nevertheless, one will have to wait and see if the leaders to be elected tomorrow will in fact meet the development aspirations of the people in Biratnagar. But in the meantime, voters here are eagerly looking forward to cast their vote, and also for the results, which seems to be quite interesting given the stature of leaders contesting the polls in Morang this time around.