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Why is Congress obsessed with stopping Bullet Train and Central Vista?

Respected Dr Manmohan Singh, in the final days of the UPA government, your government gave you a parting gift that you would never have to pay for water and power again. In view of the economic crisis due to Wuhan Coronavirus, why not pay your own power and water bill?

Dr. Manmohan Singh is back and he has some advice. And it appears that he would like to be taken seriously. This time, he has a problem with the fact that the Central Government has frozen Dearness Allowances (DA) for employees until late next year.

So how much is the usual hike in Dearness Allowance? About 4% of Basic Pay. Meanwhile, here is the Government of Maharashtra, in which the Congress has managed to become a ruling partner, despite finishing fourth in the elections.

Maharashtra government to pay 40% of March salary

Anywhere between 25-50% of salary frozen and deferred for state government employees. According to calculations by several expert economists, 4% is a lot less than 50%. Also bear in mind that dearness allowance is merely a compensation for inflation. With the economy at a standstill, right now the risk is one of deflation and not inflation. So, with the dearness allowance frozen and no inflation, the purchasing power of a Central Government employee would remain the same.

This is hardly the case with Maharashtra state government employees, who could see 50% of their salary deferred. You can easily imagine how this would wreak havoc on household budgets.

Why does it appear as if nobody listens to Dr. Manmohan Singh?

Anyway, among the demands made by the Congress, a call to scrap the Bullet Train project and the Central Vista redevelopment project in Delhi.

Congress on bullet train and Central Vista redevelopment plans

Why does it feel like scrapping the Bullet Train and Central Vista have become a Congress Party obsession? They seem to be a couple of weeks away from saying that one of Rajiv Gandhi’s dreams was that India would never have a Bullet Train?

Now, if Dr. Singh took himself seriously as an economist, he would know that in times of recession, it is for the government to spend money on large public projects.

Indeed, when the Great Depression hit the United States in 1929, the government put people to work as part of a massive public works program. This came to be known as the “New Deal.” Under the formidable Franklin D Roosevelt, the US government created the Public Works Administration (PWA) in 1933. The PWA completed some of the most iconic infrastructure projects in the US, including the legendary Hoover Dam. The infrastructure that the US created in that decade laid the foundation of the post WW2 boom when the US began a 70 year reign as the world’s pre-eminent economic, military and industrial power.

In fact, the economic crisis triggered by the Wuhan Coronavirus could be the moment for India to launch its own “New Deal.” This is the time to build those bullet trains, dams and super highways that could last us for several generations.

And considering that the bullet train is financed with a near interest free loan from Japan, it’s a no brainer.

Along with the PWA, President Roosevelt also created the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as part of his New Deal. The role of the WPA was to fund the construction of public buildings, museums, theaters, libraries all across the United States. If Dr. Manmohan Singh had been around, he would probably have called them vanity projects.

It is not difficult to imagine why the Congress is so obsessed with scrapping the Bullet Train and Central Vista. They are probably worried that India might end up with landmarks on which they won’t be able to stick the names of their one great dynasty. With no workers, no organization skills and no ideology, the Congress is just a brand name. Without everything being called “Jawahar this” or “Indira that” or “Rajiv Gandhi XYZ,” the Congress would have to shut down.

It’s bad enough that the Congress is being taunted for spending its decades in power allocating Bharat Ratnas rather than building toilets. What if tomorrow India has a bullet train and nobody gives credit to Rajiv Gandhi for dreaming it up? What would the Congress do then?

Hence the Congress obsession with stopping the project at all cost.

Incidentally, I have some advice for Dr. Manmohan Singh. More like a request.

Respected Sir, in the final days of the UPA government, your government gave you a parting gift that you would never have to pay for water and power again. In view of the economic crisis due to Wuhan Coronavirus, how about giving up that subsidy? Why not pay your own power and water bill? I am sure the nation would appreciate the gesture. Thanks.


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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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