After Elphinstone Road stampede, do we need bullet train, ask Mumbai politicians
This has put the ruling BJP on the backfoot with its leaders finding it difficult to defend this Rs1.10 lakh-croreproject owing to the resentment among Mumbaiitesmumbai Updated: Oct 03, 2017 09:02 IST
The Elphinstone foot overbridge stampede that killed 23 commuters last Friday is seeing the Opposition as well as the BJP’s ally Shiv Sena take up cudgels against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious bullet train project.
This has put the ruling BJP on the backfoot with its leaders finding it difficult to defend this Rs1.10 lakh-croreproject owing to the resentment among the common Mumbaiites who rue that the project was being pushed at the cost of upgrading the suburban rail network.
The issue has become polarised with battles being fought out on social media between those supporting the project vis a vis those challenging it.
MNS chief Raj Thackeray who has threatened to not to allow even a single brick of the project to get laid unless conditions improve on the local network would undertake a Morcha on Thursday against the project.
His cousin, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, has roundly criticised the project saying that Modi’s dream project was crushing the dreams of the common man. His son Aaditya, in his blog for NDTV, described the bullet train as Bullied Train.
He wrote, “It raises a fundamental question: do we as a state require an upgrade in our intra-state railway infra, especially for Mumbai, or do we pay for a fancy toy to display theatrics to the world, one which doesn’t benefit our state directly? He further wrote “No common Mumbaiikar is going to go to Ahmedabad daily using only a bullet train for work, and vice-versa, especially when one compares the practical rates of the ticket vis-a-vis those of the airplane that makes the journey in an hour.”
According to a senior BJP functionary, the party needs to focus on improving the suburban railway systems instead of pushing for the bullet train.
“There is a strong sentiment against the bullet train project largely due to misunderstanding. But, for now we think its best to lie low and also aggressively push what all we are planning to do to improve local train services,” said the leader who did not wish to come on record.
What has made the BJP’s position even problematic is an old video of Modi, as the Chief Minister of Guajarat speaking of the bullet train in 2013. The video flagged by local Marathi television channel, ABP Majha has Modi talking about how the bullet train project is more about projecting an image of India as a super power more than about commuters travelling by high speed rail.
Several petitions have been filed with online platform, change.org opposing the bullet train project, including one filed by a XII grade student Shreya Chavan . Chavan has petitioned the Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying ‘We don’t need bullet trains, we need better trains’.
So far, only the Union railway minister Piyush Goyal and state revenue minister Chandrakant Patil have batted for the project post the stampede.
Goyal had said that bullet train technology was safe and necessary for India.