Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday launched a stinging attack on Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for questioning the role of bullet trains in India. His attack comes a day after Congress Working Committee decided to pave the way for Gandhi to take charge as president of the party. Goyal said it was former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who conceptualised the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route for a high-speed rail corridor. Earlier, Gandhi had taken a jibe at PM Narendra Modi, saying bullet train is a symbol of Japan and cannot be India’s strength. Gandhi had also said, “only Modi ji and his suited-booted friends” will travel in the bullet train. Speaking on Bullet Train & Modernization of Indian Economy at an event organised in New Delhi, Goyal said first Gandhi should understand the importance of bullet trains. Notably, former PM Singh had also criticised Centre’s bullet train project, dubbing it an ‘exercise in vanity’, and said the government’s ‘priorities are misplaced’.
Significantly, in January 2014, Japan had offered to set up a joint venture company like the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to finance bullet train projects in India. The project had also figured in the talks between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and got approved by the now-defunct Planning Commission. Japanese experts from a consulting firm and Indian officials had also conducted surveys in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor (about 500 km) for a pre-feasibility study for the first of these projects. Prior to that, the central government officials from the Commission and Rail Ministry had visited Tokyo to complete the details of the project.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe had, in September, laid the foundation stone for India’s first high-speed rail project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The joint venture between Indian Railways and Japan’s Shinkansen Technology is expected to be completed by 2022. India’s first bullet train will connect Ahmedabad, the largest city in Gujarat, to Mumbai, cutting travel time from seven hours to less than three. PM Modi had said that Japan provided a loan of Rs 88,000 crore at 0.1 per cent interest for the project.
Goyal has time to time defended the Centre’s decision to launch bullet train project in India, stating that it was part of the country’s developmental plans. Goyal, who has an active presence on social media, gave a 884-word defence of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR), popularly known as the ‘Bullet Train’. He also included several graphics with pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to illustrate his point. Read more
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