The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (BAA) and other civil society groups are organising `Janmanch’, a meeting with political parties on the proposed Bullet Train project to discuss upon the various facets of the bullet train project, ongoing violations in acquisition and strategic assault on democratic norms, on October 15th, at Mavalankar Hall, Constitution Club, New Delhi, from 3pm to 6pm. It also invited farmer unions, trade unions and social movement groups for the meeting.
The Bullet Train Project known as the Mumbai –Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor has hit a roadblock as petitions and deliberations to Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has made the institution revisit its funding to the project, especially taking cognizance of opposition to the project, led by farmers and other stakeholders.
Reports say that the agency which has given Rs. 125 crores till now, wants the government to take notice of the agitation of the farmers. The bullet train – aimed to be constructed by 2022 will pass through Maharashtra and Gujarat acquiring hundreds of hectares rich tribal – agricultural land, destroying precious flora and fauna, and will put the livelihoods of many communities at risk.
The organisers says that planning for the high speed rail corridor has been shrouded in controversy start from its inception. The Indian Government signed a MoU with JICA in December 2015, without public consultation or legislative discussion. There have been several question raised as to the need of the project in the first place, when a majority of rail passengers travel with sub-standard facilities and existing rail networks on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad line is already facing stiff competition from competitive air fares.
While the bullet train is already being lauded by the current government as a major success, its tall claims that the terms of the loan are borrower-friendly remains an eyewash for the public at large. Analysts have pointed out that the deteriorating yen-rupee exchange rate, coupled with increasing fiscal deficits will make the loan amount substantial, and end up as a huge burden on the taxpayers.
The formation of Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) for all planning and execution has also alienated government agencies and largely given responsibilities and power to private players rather than strengthening the infrastructure of the Indian Railways.