Kumar Rajiv Nayan

Ara: Forcible collection of donation by overenthusiastic youths and goons in the name of Durga Puja has become a major irritant for bus passengers, truck drivers, school children, businessmen and the common men. Youths stop buses at every chowk and market and clash with the drivers and conductors demanding money in the name of puja celebrations. They even hurl bricks and stones at the vehicles if the drivers do not cough up ‘enough’ amount.This year, they are targeting schools and residential areas as well. They barge into a school or house in groups and force  people to part with whatever amount they demand. If anyone dares refuse, they threaten him with dire consequences.

Some harassed bus and truck drivers said it was being done allegedly in connivance with some police officials.Mangal Singh, a truck driver, said he is scared of entering Bihar with his truck carrying goods. There is no such forced collection in neighbouring Utter Pradesh, he said. The hoodlums put up barricades at several places forcing the vehicles to stop and then collect donation from vehicles drivers and owners in the name of Puja pandals. The donation anount ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 500. According to locals, some criminals of the area have also joined hands with these ‘extortionists’. In fact ‘Chanda’ collection goes on throughout the year though on different pretext including the New Year, Saraswati Puja, Holi, Ramnavami, Dipawali and Chhath.

According to a rough estimate, a bus owner operating between Buxar-Patna, Sasaram-Patna via Ara and Ara-Mohania has to shell out Rs 50,000 each year as ‘Chanda’. Some criminal cases have been instituted in this connection with different police stations in the past, but hardly any action has been taken against the miscreants. Meanwhile, bus owners have threatened to keep their vehicles off roads if the Bhojpur district administration does  not stop forcible collection of ‘Chanda’.

Bhojpur SP Kshatranil Singh said that the police were determined to stop forcible collection of donation in the name of Puja. The SP said he has issued direction to police officials to book those found collecting chanda forcibly or indulging in anti-social activities. On October 3 evening, police beat up some youngsters near Bari Mathia roundabout for collecting chanda under the leadership of one Chandan Ojha from the jeeps, three wheelers and bikers.

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