Firstly, let me get a few things straight. The recent Mumbai stampede was a disastrous incident. I have traveled quite a bit on the Mumbai local trains and so sympathize with the daily challenges faced by the commuters. It’s true that there has been a long standing neglect by the railways/local governments on this issue. They should be held accountable for this incident and frankly for all other incidents around the country like the derailments.
But that doesn’t explain the huge outcry over the bullet train project. Using it as a sacrificial lamb only serves to deflect the blame from the real causes of the damage. In spite of the Mumbai incident, the bullet train project has several advantages –
1) Increased collaboration with Japan which is highly necessary considering its tech prowess and to balance out China’s growing influence.
2) Shortening travel times will result in big growth in industrial collaboration in MH and Gujarat.
3) The financial deal that Japan has given us is pretty generous with plenty of time for repayment and Japan providing the initial capital.
4) We will getting access to some amazing tech which will spur so much growth in high quality engineering jobs and industries in the manufacturing sector.
5) Japan has had this system since the 1960’s and there have been zero accidents till now. With that kind of expertise, I am confident that the Japanese can help us replicate that safety record pretty closely.
There have been numerous analyses from the financial angle with some baffling assumptions of fixed ticket prices for 20-25 years and no mentions of ancillary revenue like advertising and catering. Further on, folks need to remember that this is not a corporate project which needs complete repayment within 10-15 years to be viable. Even if the government absorbs some loss, that’s still acceptable as long as the system produces safe and productive results.
An expensive new technology always seems like a luxury at first. Even all the metro projects in India were opposed and now they are the lifelines of cities. Saying that “Hey, lets wait till we repair all roads and eliminate all poverty” is futile because such a situation is nothing more than wishful thinking.
Investing in quality infrastructure will only pay richer dividends and help solve some of the problems mentioned above. Short term improvements are crucial, but let’s keep a long term outlook folks; that’s how we can realize the dream of a modern prosperous India that we all aspire for !