Patna: Amidst the Centre's thrust on the ambitious bullet train project, RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain the rationale behind pursuing an initiative that would cost close to Rs 1 lakh crore in a poor country like India.
"The PM should explain the rationale behind investing approximately Rs 1 lakh crore in a single project like bullet train in a nation where millions of people die due to poverty, illness and malnutrition and defecate in open," he asked in a two-page open letter.
Strongly disapproving of the project, former rail minister Prasad charged that farmers and the poor were being ignored at the cost of the bullet train project as the Centre had reduced budgetary allocations for major sectors like agriculture, health and education.
"What percentage of India's population will benefit from this costly project running for such a small distance?" the RJD supremo asked, adding that the Centre's priorities appeared to be misdirected and amounted to an advocacy of lopsided development.
Pointing to the US, Prasad said that "the richest country in the world doesn't have a bullet train as, in the fiercely competitive market, they get beaten down by low cost airlines".
He also spoke of the non-viability of the bullet train project on the grounds that the railways is facing a grim battle for survival due to ever-increasing operating ratio and decline in income from freight and passenger segments.
The RJD leader suggested that the budget for the bullet train project could be invested for developing railway infrastructure so as to benefit millions of commuters.
The Rs 98,000-crore project to lay India's first bullet train network between the commercial nerve centre of Mumbai and Ahmedabad was finalised earlier this month at annual summit talks between Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe.
The bullet train between the two cities will cut travel time on the 505-kilometre route from eight hours to around three.
Hailing the agreement for the project, Modi had said, "No less historic is our decision to introduce High Speed Rail on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector through Japan's Shinkansen, known for its speed, reliability and safety."