The Bullet Train project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad has faced much criticism from the Opposition political parties ever since it was announced. And now, with the Shiv Sena coming to power in Maharashtra along with Congress and the NCP, there is a very serious possibility that the entire project may be brought to a halt.
Uddhav Thackeray as Chief Minister appears to be hell-bent on scuttling all the infrastructure projects initiated by his predecessor, Devendra Fadnavis, and by the looks of it, the Bullet Train will not survive either. But there was a time when even the opposition Parties were excited about the prospect of having a Bullet Train in India. In fact, it was during the UPA regime that the dream first got its wings.
Extremely impressed with his ride on a Bullet Train during his trip to Japan, fodder scam convict and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was then the Railway Minister of India, announced in January 2009 that the Ministry was in the process of hiring global consultants for the purpose of high-speed trains in Indian routes. “The day is not far off when the bullet train will run in the country,” said Lalu. “We are in the process of appointing global consultants for introducing bullet train on certain routes,” he added.
The trusted ally of the Congress party even mentioned Mumbai-Ahmedabad as one of the possible routes for the project. He had said, “We are examining the possibilities of running it on some routes including Mumbai-Ahemdabad, Delhi-Chandigarh and Delhi-Patna”. About his ride on the Bullet Train, he had said, “It was very good. The bullet trains are well managed in Japan.”
later in February, while introducing the Railway Budget for the session 2009-10, Lalu Prasad Yadav again mentioned the Bullet Train while elaborating on the annual plan. He had stated on the Floor of the House, “I have seen the passenger trains travelling at speeds of 300 to 350 km per hour in Japan, Germany and France. In the 2007-08 Budget, I had announced that based on the requirement, pre-feasibility studies would be undertaken for running bullet trains in various regions of the country. Action is on for examining the feasibility of running bullet trains between Delhi-Amritsar, Ahmedabad- Mumbai- Pune, Hyderabad- Vijaywada-Chennai, Chennai- Bangalore- Ernakulam and Howrah-Haldia. He had added, “I am happy to inform the honourable members that action will soon be started for conducting a pre-feasibility study to run bullet trains between Delhi- Patna.”
Not only was the former Railway Minister of India excited about the prospect of India having a Bullet Train, but even former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh also approved of it. Not just a Bullet Train, Manmohan Singh’s government gave a green nod to the proposal for a Bullet Train at the exact same route: Mumbai-Ahmedabad. The same was reported in June 2012.
“The 492-km-long Mumbai-Ahmedabad rail route is going to have the first bullet train as the proposed high-speed rail corridor has got the green signal in a high-level meeting presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently,” a senior Railway Ministry official was quoted as saying by news agency PTI. “The high speed elevated rail corridor, which will be a stimulus for the development of satellite towns, will later be extended to Pune,” the official added.
The official also remarked that the project was touted to cost Rs. 60,000 crores and the government was exploring options to secure the financial resources required. “While one option is to execute it on a PPP model, the other is to opt for tying up with another country on the government to government model…The funding pattern has not been decided yet,” the official said.
Thus, quite clearly, the opposition parties which are screaming the most against the Bullet Train project now had no such qualms with it when Manmohan Singh and Lalu Prasad Yadav had displayed enthusiasm regarding the same during the UPA years. It appears that the only real problem they have with it now is the fact that Narendra Modi could achieve something they weren’t able to during their regime.
Even the route Mumbai-Ahmedabad was chosen during the UPA era itself. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister for Railways Piyush Goyal are only fulfilling the dream that was conceived years before they came to power. The cynical politics involving the Bullet Train Project only shows why it’s so difficult to achieve anything glorious in our country.
In 2009, Lalu Prasad Yadav as the Railway Minister of the UPA government said that we shall soon have a Bullet Train in the country. A decade later, the project is still nowhere near completion and the very same people who had touted the idea all those years ago are doing everything they can to create hurdles in the successful completion of the project.