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EPISODE – XXII
TOPIC: Mr. Modi, please abandon the bullet train idea
BLOG: The Times of India
WRITER: Sanjeev Shankaran
GENRE: Personal View
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MEANINGS are given in BOLD and ITALIC
A report in Reuters said that the visit this week of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to result in an announcement about a bullet train.
Japan will offer $8.11 billion loan towards the completion of a bullet train project. The project will cost Rs 98,000 crore and the train will run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Construction is expected to start in 2017 and end six years later.
If the report is accurate, it doesn’t sound good for Indian railways.
Railway infrastructure in India is creaky (If you describe something as creaky, you think it is bad in some way because it is old or old-fashioned.) on account of inadequate resources. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu made a good start to his tenure (Tenure is the period of time during which someone holds an important job.) by vowing to channel investment into areas which would have a greater impact on the economy. Consequently, resources will not be diverted to creating new passenger lines which aim to please a specific constituency.
This made sense as the need of the hour was focused investment in railway infrastructure.
A decade ago railway’s finances began to improve on the heels of an economic upswing (An upswing is a sudden improvement in something such as an economy, or an increase in an amount or level.). However, the confluence (The confluence of two rivers is the place where they join and become one larger river.) of a higher outgo on account of enhanced salaries and pensions following the recommendations of the sixth pay commission and an economic slowdown led to a deterioration in the organization’s financial position.
Salaries and pension in tandem (If one person does something in tandem with another person, the two people do it by working together.) result in the single largest expenditure item for the organization. The extent of railway earnings they will pre-empt is set to rise as the seventh pay commission has recommended an enhancement in salaries.
Given the precarious (uncertain) nature of railway finances and the urgency with which it has to enhance its infrastructure, the last thing needed is a showpiece project such as a bullet train. A bullet train will not increase the speed with which India’s freight trains move- their movement must be one of the slowest in the world. India’s manufacturers are not going to more competitive if freight continues to move at a snail’s pace (slow speed).
There is nothing intrinsically (belonging naturally, essential) wrong with a bullet train. But given the priorities outlined in Prabhu’s railway budget, there is no case to borrow money to build a showpiece project at this moment in time.
Abandon this idea, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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