Even as China is working at break-neck speed to implement a reported $2-billion rail network plan that will virtually encircle India, railway minister Mamataa Banerjee’s budget does not reflect India’s urgency to get spurred on by the competition.
Of India's nine projects to build 274 kilometres of rail lines with neighbouring countries at a cost of Rs 2,692 crore, none have found a mention in Banerjee’s budget.
China’s plans are to extend its Tibet rail network by connecting Lhasa with the region’s second largest city of Xiagaze to reach the strategically important Chumbi valley, adjacent to Sikkim and the Siliguri corridor.
“China’s infrastructure thrust along the Indo-China borders will greatly reduce Nepal and Bangladesh's reliance on India for commodities like drugs, transport vehicles, spare parts, cotton textiles and cement", strategic affairs analyst Lt General YM Bammi (retired) feels.
At the transport minister's conference at Colombo in 2008, India had also mooted the grand plan to run a passenger train connecting Dhaka, New Delhi and Lahore.
“None of these projects have moved forward or are likely to for the simple reason that India is not as cash happy as China. Also, the Indian government is unwilling to invest in the railways”, said Sumant Chak of the Asian Institute of Rail Transport.
“Apart from the need for substantial financial outlays for infrastructure, there are many non-financing constraints such as bad quality of engineering and planning at DPR stage that need to be addressed to avoid time and cost over-runs”, says the economic survey report of 2010-11.