A Right To Information query has revealed that a ministerial committee headed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has yet to meet to discuss the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, The Hindu reported on Monday. The committee was set up in February 2017 to carry out an in-depth study of the feasibility of the project involving the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
“The State Home Department, in the RTI response, has said there has been no meeting conducted by the sub-committee till now,” said activist Jeetendra Ghadge, who had filed the RTI application.
The bullet train corridor from Mumbai to Ahmedabad would be an elevated 508-km high-speed rail line meant to benefit diamond merchants, textile traders and other professionals shuttling between the two cities. The project is slated to cost Rs 1.1 lakh crore, of which the Japan International Cooperation Agency is slated to fund Rs 88,000 crore at an interest rate of 0.1%. The project has faced stiff opposition from farmers and land owners in both Gujarat and Maharashtra.
The other members of the sub-committee are ministers Chandrakant Patil, Vinod Tawde and Diwakar Raote, FirstPost reported. In September last year, the home department had issued a circular approving the project without the sub-committee having held a single meeting.
While the state government said the project was approved on the recommendation of the sub-committee, Raote denied any knowledge about the panel. “My name may be there [in the sub-committee], but I have no clue about it,” he said. “I don’t know what this committee is, and I do not recall attending anything pertaining to it.”
However, Fadnavis told the Mumbai Mirror that the sub-committee had met although he did not specify the date.
‘Project not financially viable’
A report by Maharashtra’s Transport Department, prepared in January last year and submitted to the sub-committee, highlighted objections raised by various government departments over the bullet train’s economic viability, the RTI response showed. Among other things, the report asked the government to ascertain the number of passengers travelling between the two states to check the economic feasibility of the bullet train.
The state’s planning and finance departments have urged the government to conduct a study of bullet train economics in other countries before deciding upon its feasibility in India. They have also asked the central government to clarify the formula to share the loan if the project does not make profits for a long period.
“The estimated annual return of the project is less than the expenditure, hence the chances of losses are high,” said the State Finance Department in its note. “[We] need clarifications regarding sharing of such losses and expenditure.”