Muzaffarpur, Nov 2 (PTI) It has been selected as one of the three smart cities for Bihar, but residents continue to battle with potholes, waterlogging, and overflowing drains, and feel that politicians instead of "selling big dreams" to people should focus on providing basic amenities first.
One of the most important districts in the state after capital of Patna, Muzaffarpur in north Bihar falls in the historic Tirhut region, and has 11 Assembly seats under it.
55 constituencies in seven crucial districts including Muzaffarpur will go to polls tomorrow in the fourth phase of the high-stake Bihar elections.
34-year-old Anupam Singh, whose family recently opened two small biscuit-making units in the now defunct Bela Industrial Area, says, "Muzaffarpur needs basic civic amenities first before we get ambitious.
"I mean, just look at the condition of roads here, the garbage dumps and overflowing drains, and of course waterlogging, one of the nagging problems of our city. They should be tackled first on a priority basis," he said.
Muzaffarpur, Bihar Sharif and Bhagalpur have been selected from Bihar for the ambitious Smart City mission of the Modi-led government, but not many people here seem to be enthused about the project.
23-year-old Arun Kumar, who works in railways, and lives in a village in the Kurhani Assembly constituency, says, "he doesn't know what a smart city is, but I know what I want for our village and the city."
"Modiji had come to Muzaffarpur for a big election rally.
I listened to his speech...I have not decided whom will I vote for yet, but I want our candidates to talk of building more and better colleges and hospitals, so that we don't have to go to Patna or Delhi for medical emergencies," he said.
For tertiary care, the city relies on Sri Krishna Memorial College and Hospital (SKMCH) and Sadar Hospital.
Bihar prides it as the country s 'litchi city', but every year the bane of encephalitis here gives the state sleepless nights.
Muzaffarpur city has L S College, founded in 1899, the oldest college in whole of north Bihar, MIT Muzaffarpur, and Government Polytechnic Institute, Zilla School and several private educational institutions.
32-year-old Ram Kumar, who dropped out of L S College, says, "It was a prestigious institution in it heydays, when people from different parts of the state and outside came to study there. It has a planetarium of its own, but it is all locked up and lying defunct for decades now.
"Rajendra babu, the first President taught there.
Gandhiji on his visit to Champaran stayed there. But, the glory is all gone. And, the reason for our region falling backward is that both Centre and state governments have neglected north Bihar," he said.
On the proposed 'smart city' project for the city, Kumar, a Delhi-based IT entrepreneur who migrated from Muzaffarpur after his schooling, says, he is excited about it but health, education and civic infrastructure should be given top priorities.
"We battle encephalitis every year, and after Gorakhpur in UP, Muzaffapur gets the highest number of cases. But, this health bane has never become a poll issue, as far as I know.
We talk of smart cities but the proposed airport for the city is still a pipe dream," he rues.
The airstrip in the city was built in 1980s for the visit of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But the facility has remained non-operational except for occasional use by armed forces for their work or rescue operations during calamities.
From the Muzaffarpur Assembly seat, BJP's sitting MLA Suresh Sharma in banking on the 'Smart City' development as a poll plank.
He is pitted against former MLA Vijender Chaudhary, fighting on a JD(U) ticket this time.
In a Facebook Question and Answers session held a few days ago, Sharma said that "my priority for Muzaffarpur is smart city".
Kumar says that while caste factor will be there in elections here as well, but for Muzaffarpur civic issue too will become a deciding factor.
Muzaffarpur, besides being home of the sweet litchis, most of which are exported abroad or used for making packaged juices, also at one time had a thriving silk business.
22-year-old Chandan Kumar, from the district says, "In Sutapatti area, there were rows of silk fabric shops and lot of Marwari traders who did business here. Some are still doing it but the glory days are gone. You can still see 1870-era dates embossed on the establishments there."
On the prospect of smart city, he says, "As a youth, who has a comfortable life in a metro city, it would be very selfish on my part to think of just malls and multiplexes and wi-fi-enabled stations and airports or fast food joints for my own city, where I visit once in a year.
"But, I guess, the government at all level needs to take care of waterlogging and traffic and sanitation woes first."
"I mean what is the point of a wi-fi market, if the area is filled with dirt and overflowing sewage. Also, we need more hospitals, given our Sadar Hospital itself is in ICU," he added.
Chandan hopes that after Independence people have moved on from old "feudal mindset" and that they won't align themselves on caste lines to make an electoral choice.
"The candidate who has done the best work should get votes and those who haven't should be rejected. I hope people of Muzaffarpur will make a mature choice," he adds.