BULLET TRAINS : AN UNNECESSARY EXTRAVAGANCE ?

India is a developing country with the population of over 1.2 billion, and dealing with a lot of complex issues from agriculture sector to defense sector. It is in the mode of transition.

Recently, Government of India has announced that they will complete the Bullet Train Project with Rs 1.1 lakh crore budgets by 2022. And also taking the credit of 8 billion dollars from Japan. The project involves the construction of 505 km line connecting Ahmedabad and Mumbai shortening the journey time between the two or over just two hours. PM Narendra Modi and Japan PM Shinzo Abe have laid the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project. The Japanese Shinkansen E5 series of bullet train has been chosen for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Corridor.The train will pass through a 21 km long tunnel, the country’s longest, 7 kilometers of which is under the sea. The ticket costs for the noise-free train, having a maximum speed of 350kmphwill be about 3300 rupees which are 1.5 times the price of the first class ticket for an air conditioned coach in existing special express. The seating capacity of the bullet train would be around 750 passengers and will later be increased to 1,250, once more coaches are added. Initially, 35 bullet trains will be operated. By 2053 this number is likely to go up to 105. According to IANS, 24 bullet trains will be imported from Japan, while the rest are likely to be made in India.

Our Education Budget 2017 is Rs. 79686 Cr, Agricultural Budget is Rs.1,87,223 Cr, Defence Budget is Rs.2,74,114 Cr. On one hand people are dying due to lack of food, farmers are committing suicide; soldiers are dying every day due to the territorial boundary dispute. Fundamental needs of society are not being fulfilled and we are taking loans from another country to have bullet trains at this point of time. To put the figure in perspective, we should know the budget for bullet train is 1.1 lakh Cr, three times the size of India’s health budget. India is a country where 38 percent of all children are malnourished and stunted at the age of two. The bullet train will cost more than we spend annually on the education budget of India. Again, we have some of the lowest literacy rates in the world. So, at present, instead of spending crores on bullet trains we need to increase the budget of other sectors to fulfill the fundamental necessities of transitional India.

The other aspect is that when we talk about transport industry, our investment does not seem to be made with any sort of attention to the poor and those most in need. The government seems to be keen on spending money for the transport of the rich, on the assumption that this will grow the economy and ultimately benefit the nation. But by doing this we are stretching the already existing gap between poor and rich. And mostly, of no use for the vast majority of Indians.

At this point of time where our country is in transition mode, this project will be considered as vanity project sucking money that could be used for other sectors like health, education, defense etc.  Ahmedabad and Mumbai are part of the Golden Quadrilateral highway network with six lane expressways on which travel by road is as fast as travel by train. It is possibly the best-connected route in India. There is an airport in Ahmedabad from where there are about 10 daily flights to Mumbai. This will be useful for people living in and between Ahmedabad and Mumbai which are already the best-connected part of India. And it will be of no use to the vast majority of Indians.

Our government is taking about 8 billion dollars loan from Japan. This might turn out to be the expensive mistake on the part of India because for the project many high tech components will be manufactured in Japan. So if some parts will fail while running Bullet Train we have to ask Japan for that components because we don’t have to assemble line for manufacturing high tech components and also we have to hire Japanese Engineer for Quality checking and maintenance purposes.

The country where half of population don’t have access to train and half of the population which has access, have to use trains which don’t have Good sanitation facilities. Instead of increasing number of trains government needs to increase the number of stations and railway tracks and their proper maintenance as in the current times we are witnessing the disturbingly increased number of train accidents. The government needs to spend more on safety measures for the commuters. We are making Bullet Train which will benefit only a few people as the cost of traveling in them will be high for the middle class, which is the highest population group of India.

Bullet trains will be the compliment to our existing society only if the other pressing issues will be provided with sufficient resources to fulfill the fundamental needs of our country.

India needs both, simultaneously. One on hand society desperately demands the development of road and railways and on another hand, we need a pragmatic plan for our future too.

Without a doubt, our roads and railways infrastructure too, need as much attention as the bullet train project and technology implementation because it can solve many problems like farmers from rural areas will be effectively able to transport their grains and stock to other parts of the country. It would be helpful in the times of natural calamities as better road and railways take less time to reach and deliver the relief to the victim.

Not only bullet trains but if overall infrastructure development is given good thoughts and proper implementation, it will boost the rate of economic growth.

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