Commuters at mercy of Sunsari denizens

Sunsari, October 21:

Passengers using the East-West Highway in Sunsari district are being forced to cough up ‘service charge’ for using the makeshift bridges constructed over the Sapta Koshi River in Paschim Kusaha Village Development Committee.

Locals have constructed makeshift bridges to facilitate passengers after floods swept away a section of the East-West Highway. But they have been collecting service charge from the passengers saying that they had invested money for the construction of such bridges.

The local administration has been doing nothing to control such practices, passengers complained. They said that locals were collecting service charge from passengers in Laukahi, Jauwa Canal Chowk and two other places by installing barricades.

Locals have been charging Rs 10 to Rs 30 from individuals, Rs 30 for bicycle and Rs 50 for motorbike while crossing such bridges, passengers said.

“Local people are collecting money from passengers because of the indifference of the government in repairing the damaged section of the highway. Because of the apathy of local administration, passengers are being cheated by boat operators and locals,” Mushtaq Ansari, a local of Paschim Kusaha VDC said, adding that the passengers have no option but to pay the amount to the locals.

However, a boat operator Mohammad Siddique denied that they were cheating passengers.

“Why are we being accused of cheating passengers when we are helping them cross the river?” he questioned.

He justified the collection of service charge from passengers saying that locals had invested their money for the construction of such bridges.

Chief District Officer of Sunsari Durga Bhandari said no complaint had been filed in this regard.