Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said that the Rs 88,000-crore bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, which was launched with much fanfare by the BJP government is “an exercise in vanity”. Addressing members of the business community here, Singh said: “The bullet train project will not benefit either the 6.5 crore Gujaratis or the nation. The Rs 88,000 crore soft loan may seem like easy money, but it still needs to be repaid to the Japanese.”
Elaborating why the project would not benefit people, he said, “The bullet train project requires creation of a parallel infrastructure, while our existing passenger rail network is languishing and needs a dire infusion of funds to improve both safety and speed.”
Stating that the previous year witnessed the highest number of deaths due to derailments in more than a decade, Singh said that the “government’s priorities are misplaced”.
The UPA government had, instead, signed a deal with Japanese government in 2005 for a dedicated freight corridor, he said, adding that it would have created a “multiplier effect on the economy, with upgradation of transporation technology, increase in productivity and reduction in transportation cost”.
About the recent trend of dubbing everyone “anti-national” or “anti-development” for questioning government’s policies, the former PM wondered “if one would become anti-development by questioning the bullet train project”. “Is everyone, who questions the outcome of demonetisation or GST, a tax evader? Does questioning the drop in GDP rate make one an anti-national,” asked Singh.
He said that “this attitude of suspecting everyone to be a thief or anti-national, the low-level of rhetoric, is damaging to the democratic discourse”.