India’s ambiitous project, to start its first bullet train, has always been in the eye of controversy, due to the opposition. We have seen numerous attempts to slander and spread half truths about the project. Most famously, Kejriwal once calculated the fare as Rs 75,000. Now, we may have a new theory, which tops that of Kejriwal

In a unique interview, Raj Thakeray from the MNS, interviewed NCP honcho Sharad Pawar, at an event in Mumbai. One of the questions from Thakeray, talked about the bullet train and raised an interesting theory. The abridged version of the relevant part of the interview is as below:

Raj Thakeray: Nitin Gadkari recently announced a Mumbai-Vadodara express highway, for which he will sanction Rs 22,000 crores. PM Modi after the elections, announced Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train costing Rs 1.10 lakh crores. Is this an outcome of the wound which was inflicted on Gujarat when Maharashtra split from Gujarat but Gujarat lost Mumbai? Is this then a conspiracy to distance Mumbai (from Maharashtra). Mumbai does not need a bullet train. Now, we will be able to reach very fast to Ahmedabad in the morning itself, what do we do there? Should we eat dhokla, fafdas? Why isn’t bullet train being brought on long distance routes like Mumbai-Delhi, Mumbai-Kolkata etc? So is this an attempt to make Mumbai independent? 

Sharad Pawar: There was lot of discussion on this, and we had objected to this. We had said bullet train should have been from Mumbai to Delhi, or one which goes through various Mumbai towns. No one will go to Ahmadabad via this bullet train, they will all come to Mumbai, crowd of Mumbai will increase. Let anyone do whatever they can, Mumbai cannot be broken away from Maharashtra.

Later Pawar confirmed that such a conspiracy is visible. He then said that he can see boards in Gujarati language in some areas of Mumbai, but he has no problem with the boards per se.

This theory has to be seen in the background of the fact that once upon a time, Maharashtra and Gujarat were united. After independence, for around 13 years, large parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat formed one state, known as “Bombay state”, which was also called “Maha Dwibhashi Rajya”, meaning, “the great bilingual state”. Finally in 1960, after protests, the two were split into Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Thakeray and Pawar were hinting at this event, and the purportedness bitterness amongst Gujaratis, at having lost Mumbai (Bombay) to Maharashtra. Hence, the moves to link Gujarat and Mumbai via expressways and bullet trains, are being painted as a move to split Maharashtra again. The undertone again gains significance since a Gujarati PM is at the helm.

The theory seems laughable for various reasons. Firstly, this is not the first time this kind of conspiracy has been sought to be fanned. Before the 2014 Maharashtra assembly elections too, this angle was brought alive, and PM Modi had to categorically state from the stage of a rally, that he had no plans to separate Mumbai from Maharashtra.

Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders are spreading a new lie that Mumbai will be separated from Maharashtra. But I want to assure you that as long as I am in Delhi, no power in the world can split Maharashtra. Can anyone born in this country think of splitting the land of Shivaji?

Secondly, the theory by Thakeray-Pawar fails because although the project of bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai was reinvigorated by PM Modi, the base for this project was laid during UPA rule. The project as we see it today, was a result of the joint work of the Gujarat, Maharashtra and the central government.

The then Gujarat CM Modi had first travelled in a bullet train way back in 2007, and the first mention of any such project in India came via the Railway Budget February 2009. Back then a decision was taken for pre-feasibility study for running bullet trains between Ahmedabad-Mumbai and Pune, among other routes.

By 2010, the final report was examined by all stake holders i.e. state governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat, Central and Western Railways and various Directorates of Ministry of Railways. The UPA government had identified six corridors for conducting pre-feasibility studies :-

  • Mumbai-Ahmedabad
  • Delhi-Amritsar via Chandigarh
  • Delhi-Patna via Lucknow and Varanasi
  • Hyderabad-Chennai via Vijaywada
  • Howrah-Haldia
  • Cheenai-Ernakulam via Bangalore

Out of the above 6 only Mumbai-Ahmedabad passed the feasibility study and rest of them were either rejected or were still in bidding phase for appointment of consultant to prepare a pre-feasibility study report. Finally in 2012 the Railway Minister proposed to undertake a survey of new line for high speed rail corridor (HSRC) and trains between Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad. In 2013 UPA Government appointed Japan International Consultants for Transportation Co.Ltd(JIC) to conduct feasibility study and the findings of the same are here.

In May 2014, CM Modi became PM Modi, and from then on, the move to bring the bullet train to India picked up steam, and soon we saw the signing of the MoU with Japan.

So, will Thakeray-Pawar still stick to their stand that the bullet train and other initiatives to connect Mumbai and parts of Gujarat, are part of a conspiracy to split Mumbai from Maharashtra? If yes, then at least Pawar being part of UPA is equally responsible.

This “conspiracy” then is basically another attempt to split India on the lines of states. To make one state bay for the blood for another. Basically, a sophisticated “bharat tere tukde honge” at play.

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