Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress on Thursday called the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed railway a “vanity project” by the Center and accused the government of failing to address the real transportation needs of the common people.
While discussing the operation of the Ministry of Railways in the Upper House, Mr O’Brien also sought transparency in the case regarding the private trains, Tejas, while also criticizing the government for the lack of “major ideas” to the national carrier.
“Your view of the railways is different from that of the Trinamool Congress and many other parties… For us, the railway provides the infrastructure for the fundamental right of every Indian citizen to travel from point A to point B. It is a fundamental right when it comes to transportation. You can look at it differently, we don’t,” he said.
Citing the example of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, the Trinamool MP said: “We feel there is nothing wrong with the bullet train at a later stage. To make that bullet train, it will cost you about Rs 200 crore per km Our priority would have been the special freight corridor for’sabzi‘ (vegetables), for ‘chawal’ (rice), for everything else at Rs 25 crore per km.”
He went on to say, “I understand, I say this on the floor of the House that the bullet train is your vanity project.”
The total cost of the project is pegged at Rs 1.08 lakh crore. The 508.17 kilometer network runs through Mumbai, Thane and Palghar in Maharashtra; and Valsad, Navsari, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Kheda and Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
He accused the government of considering that ordinary Indians can afford expensive trains, saying, “The Vande Bharat Express, the cost of a ticket is Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 somewhere in that range.”
Commenting on Private Trains, Mr O’Brien said: “Tejas trains stopped working eight months later. (In) 2021 we are told that dozens of companies have submitted tenders. Whenever RTI activists write to Railway Boards, no data is available What is the communication for these private trains?”
He stated that there was an authorized group of secretaries set up by the Ministry of Railways and asked, “How many meetings have they had? Share with MPs what was discussed during those meetings.”
He accused the government of indulging in different treatment of different railway zones in the allocation of funds, saying: “Southern Railways has received less than Rs 400 crore in the last four years, the Northern Railway, if you add it up, it comes at about Rs 30,000 crore. Conceptually we talk so much about federalism, but where is the federalism?”
He asked the Ministry of Railways to share the percentage of allotment to states and how much they have received, while also suggesting that the ministry consider in a bigger way to make goods trade in the Northeast affordable as the region does not can afford expensive freight.
Neeraj Shekhar (BJP) joined the discussion and said that the railways have witnessed a drastic change in recent years, especially in the cleanliness of trains and stations. Harshvardhan Singh Dungarpur (BJP) also highlighted several steps the government and railways have taken for development.
GK Vasan of the Tamil Maanila Congress (Moopanar) (TMC-M) emphasized the lack of sufficient funding for railway projects in Tamil Nadu and strived for timely completion of projects in the state. TDP’s K Ravindra Kumar asked the minister to fill the “lakhs of posts” that were vacant in the railways.
Rambhai Harjibhai Mokariya of the BJP spoke in Gujarati in the discussion to express his views.
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