Shiv Sena Critique Indicates Trouble For PM Modi's Bullet Train Project

PM Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe jointly laid the foundation stone for the bullet train project in September 2017. Japan is providing India with a loan of Rs 88,000 crore for the project at a minimal interest of 0.1 per cent

Japan is helping India with the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project

Highlights

  • Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP front is likely to stop key projects
  • Alliance won't cut any more trees at Mumbai's Aarey Colony
  • It said it will focus on farmers' welfare - a key election issue
Mumbai:

The Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP front is likely to stop key projects like the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, a Sena official told NDTV today. The alliance, which will come to power in Maharashtra after a week of high drama in a state that has been without a government for more than a month, will also scrap the Nanar oil refinery and not cut any more trees at Mumbai's Aarey Colony, party spokesperson Manisha Kayande said. It will, instead, focus on farmers' welfare - a key election issue.

"However many trees the MMRCL (Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Limited) has cut, going forward not one more will be cut. Uddhav Thackerayji said this... this government will work for the people," Ms Kayande said.

"Nothing has changed so far as the Nanar project is concerned. From what I know this issue has been decided and it has been closed. As far as the bullet train is concerned,.. we had decided earlier as well. If it is causing so much harm to so many people, why should we go ahead with it?" she added.

"Our priority is farmers... personally feel don't need (a) bullet train," Deepak Kesarkar, a Sena MLA and Minister of State in the earlier state government, said earlier today.

Sources within the Congress told NDTV the same thing.

The Sena-Congress-NCP alliance, which calls itself Maha Vikas Aghadi and has promised to "take Maharashtra forward", has reservations over the cost of the bullet train project and its returns, something it had indicated last week.

"If the project has to go ahead, the centre should bear all cost of it. Maharashtra won't expend on the bullet train project," a senior Congress leader had told NDTV. An NCP source had told news agency IANS that the alliance would inform the centre it would not bear the cost of the project - pegged at Rs 1.08 lakh crores.

Switching focus from the bullet train will be welcomed by long-suffering farmers in the state, who this year have lost lakhs of acres of crops to floods that followed a period of severe drought.

An interim relief programme had been announced by the Maharashtra Governor on Saturday but the opposition had demanded compensation of Rs 25,000 per hectare.

Alongside the possible scrapping of the bullet train project, the decision to not cut any more trees in Aarey Colony is a big win for residents and environmental activists.

A fierce row had broken out between the Sena and its former ally, the BJP, in the run up to last month's election over the cutting of trees in one of the city's greenest neighbourhoods. A similar dispute developed over the Nanar refinery project; a Rs 3 lakh crore refinery in Ratnagiri district that was scrapped earlier this year after the Sena fought against it.

PM Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had jointly laid the foundation stone for the bullet train project in Ahmedabad in September 2017. Japan is providing India with a loan of Rs 88,000 crore for the project at a minimal interest of 0.1 per cent.

The project was to have been completed by 2023. The National High Speed Railway Corporation (NHSRCL), which is responsible for the construction, has, so far, acquired nearly 50 per cent of the land needed.

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