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Last updated: December 13, 2002

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Bumpy ride awaits Kalchakra visitors ABDUL QADIR (The Times of India) WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 04, 2002 GAYA: With less than six weeks remaining for the Kalchakra prayers, the mega Buddhist ritual to be performed by his holiness, the Dalai Lama, in Bodh Gaya between January 11-18, 2003, the devotees are in for a bumpy ride as National Highway 83 and the Gaya-Rajgir road routes are full of potholes.
Several thousand devotees and followers of the spiritual leader from about 50 countries of the world are likely to participate in the Kalchakra prayers.
Though the Gaya-Patna road was declared a national highway about three years back, expansion and repair work are yet to begin and in the meanwhile potholes have developed in large stretches of road and big parts of it, particularly the Jehanabad-Nadaul and Tehta-Jehanabad stretches, have become almost non-motorable.
The road was declared a national highway during Nitish Kumar's brief stint as the Union surface transport minister.
Both the Patna-Gaya and Gaya-Rajgir routes are important for the Buddhist visitors as a large number of them take the road route to Gaya after their arrival at the Patna Airport.
In the absence of regular domestic and international flights to Bodh Gaya, except the weekly Colombo-Gaya-Delhi flight of the Sri Lankan Airlines, Patna airport suits the international travellers.
Most of the visitors also go to Rajgir.
The Gaya-Rajgir road, an important segment of the much trumpeted Buddhist circuit developed with the Rs 232 crore overseas economic assistance programme of the Japanese was constructed only a few years back.
But the road could not weather its fist monsoon and on account of the extremely poor quality of material used in road construction, technical defects and the alleged siphoning of the fund, the road soon became virtually unusable.
Most of the motorists prefer to go Rajgir via Patna.
Though Rajgir is only 70 km from Gaya, the motorists have to cover a distance of about 200 km to visit Rajgir via Patna.
Even his holiness, the Dalai Lama, came from Rajgir via Patna in January this year and he fell ill between Patna and Rajgir.
The recent deterioration in the condition of the National Highway 83 has further narrowed the option of the motorists.
If the condition of roads was not enough to frighten the motorists, the delay in opening the by-pass made to skip the railway level crossings continues to cause avoidable harassment to the road users.
The by-pass was made about three years back and only the finishing touch is to be given to make them operational.
There are six railway level crossings on the Patna-Gaya route and there will remain only one crossing near Chakand if the by-pass is made operational.
The railway crossings help the road robbers as most of the road robberies take place at these points on the Patna-Gaya route while the motorists wait for the passing of slow-moving trains.
The distance between Gaya and Patna would be reduced by about 20 km as the proposed National Highway 83 skips Dhanarua and Sampatchak and runs parallel to the railway track.
In the last few months, the Magadh division commissioner Hem Chand Sirohi has sent several reminders to the Central road construction agencies to take up the NH 83 work on a priority basis.
But no tangible development apart from the erection of some confusing milestones between Jehanabad and Masaurhi depicting the road's new status as a National Highway has taken place.

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Texts and Translations © Peter G. Friedlander unless otherwise indicated.