State deception

Print edition :

THE Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is a project close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s heart. Trains on this 508-km-long route will run at 350 km/h and cut travel time to two hours from seven hours. A project of the National High Speed Rail Corporation, it is estimated to cost Rs.1.1 lakh crore. Financing will be through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which is lending Rs.88,000 crore at an interest rate of 0.1 per cent, payable in 50 years.

The project requires 246.42 ha of land in Maharashtra, 612.17 ha in Gujarat and 7.52 ha in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. More than 80,000 trees and 866 ha of farmland will be sacrificed for the project. Also on the chopping block are reserved forests and mangroves, and a large chunk of the region’s biodiversity will take a hit.

Protests against the project led to the Home Department announcing that a subcommittee headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis would be formed and the report of the funding agency would be studied to check the project’s feasibility. This was in February 2017. Due process was apparently followed and the green signal for the project was given in September 2017. But a recent RTI application revealed that the subcommittee did not hold any meeting prior to approving the project. The Chief Minister’s Office said that the subcommittee had held meetings and that the Chief Minister had been briefed, but no details or minutes of these were provided to the RTI applicant. The Information Officer who replied to the RTI application has been suspended and is facing a departmental inquiry.

Lyla Bavadam