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A Cruel Joke on the Poor of India

It is a tragedy of Indian Politics that the massive amount of Rs. 1.10 Lakh Crores being spent Bullet Train project from Ahmadabad to Mumbai is hailed by Modi government as a great achievement - still more tragic and utter lack of people’s politics is the reaction of other political parties. Thus Malikarjun Kharge, the Congress leader in parliament has hastened to clarify that the Congress is not against the project but wants to draw the attention of the public to the motive of the inauguration on the eve of Gujarat poll - and it is a political use of national project. To leave no one in doubt that the Congress is even more keen on bullet train concept in the whole of India, he has openly welcomed the project and has emphasized that it was first conceived in 2005 and later in 2013 when Congress was in power and that it was the Congress which had ordered viability survey by Japanese government and that Congress is happy that Japanese government has kept the schedule. Thus congress objection is not against this project, rather it welcomes it, project which I consider as disastrously wasteful and amounts to mocking the poor in India.)

The position of some other opposition parties has surprisingly not been made clear excepting by Socialist Party, India) whose President Dr. Prem Singh has publically opposed it. I have not seen any other opposition Party condemning this bullet train project - rather I find that Akhilesh Yadav of Samejwadi Party has welcomed the idea of a bullet Train but is of the view that it should run between Delhi and Kolkata passing through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, containing the maximum number of unemployed and poor. Is it not ironic that though extreme poverty line in being highlighted yet there is no condemning the aristocratic Bullet Train concept - rather the grievance is that Modi has favoured Gujarat, rather than U.P. and Bihar

It was reported in the press that the opposition parties were to meet at Jaipur on 14th of September, 2017 for third edition of ‘Sanghi Virasat’, shared culture campaign to oppose the NDA government effort to “Create Social Disharmony”. Akhilesh Yadav was one of those who was to attend the meet, apart from other leaders of CPM, TMI, Rashtraya Lok Dal. One has not heard of this group opposing the concept of Bullet Train - does that mean that opposition does not find the whole concept of Bullet Train as an assault on the dignity of the poor. Has the opposition the same priority as billionaire’s favourites of Modi. I am also disappointed that powerful Railway Unions and others Trade Unions have not opposed this mad venture.

The Bullet Train is also expected to pass through under sea. India has no experience in this technology at all. Is our dependence on a foreign country for decades,, however friendly it may be at this time), a wise decision tested on grounds of security and defence. Should this money be not spent on improving our existing railway quality so as to exclude frequent rail accidents which have taken place in the recent past.

If we go on with Bullet Train, it is already having a very bad impact. It is said that Maharashtra Chief Minister though of BJP was not inclined to allot land unless he extracted promise that there will also be a bullet train from Mumbai to Nagpur, which is his home town). On paper there is already a programme of bullet train from Delhi – Bombay, notwithstanding the protests by poor farmers whose lands will be acquired thus creating a social crisis in the country.

Farmers of Maharashtra have already gone on protest at this wasteful expense while they are growning under loans repayment and which have not been waived by the State government.

Even from practical point of view the concept of Bullet Train is deeply flawed, looked at from any angle. The fare in the Bullet Train are such that any government having the welfare of the people would not touch it with a pair of tongs. The fare could be around 2 times the existing A/c first class fare or almost the same as Air fare of over Rs. 3000 - 3500/-. Bullet train will need 100 trips daily to be financially viable - a study by IIM Ahmadabad has come to the conclusion that this project would be in losses from day - one.

Japan’s government and its rail companies lobbied the US for years to sell its bullet train technology and found little success.

To justify this Modi has given an example by saying that it will save the passenger trouble of going to airport in Car, avoiding traffic and then waiting at the airport. The ironic cruelty of this explanation has been missed by prime Minister – poor in India do not own Cars. In fact figures of car registration in India averaged 108690.89 Cars from 1991 untill 2017.

According to World Bank report, India has 224 million living below the international poverty line of around Rs. 120 a day. Modis bullet train venture is a cruel joke and ridicules on the poor of India because the fare of Ahmadabad – Mumbai, one way fare) will not be less then Rs. 3000, which works our at 25 time the daily earning of the millions in India.

The concept of Bullet Train accepts the vilest of inequality in our country. Thus the position in the India is that richest 1% of Indians own more than 53% of India’s wealth) Further shameful inequality is reflected in the fact that 57 billionaires in India control 70% of India’s wealth.

The position is India after 70 years of India is that about 48% of Indian urban population and in rural areas 60% of population remains without access to toilets. It needs to be emphasized that building toilets in rural India was one of the major promises made by Prime Minister Modi.

There is another more serious objection to the massive expense on Bullet Train. Only 44% of rural households have access to electricity.

The project is expected to be completed normally in 2025 or not earlier then by December, 2023 in any case. Modis whose term expires by mid 2019 has no legal or moral justification to bind the next governments which could be, Non-BJP).


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Related Bulletin : Oct 2017