Seeking to allay concerns surrounding the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told the Legislative Council that the project was completely viable as stated in its feasibility report.
He said the project would benefit the country as fast communication systems lead to development and attract investment, which is what happened in Japan and China when bullet trains were introduced there.
Some MLCs, including Sanjay Dutt, Neelam Gorhe, Anand Jagtap and Leader of Opposition in Council Dhananjay Munde raised issues concerning the bullet train project.
Dutt questioned the government over the feasibility of the project, land acquisition process, investment, loan burden and other issues linked to the project.
In response, Fadnavis said, “The feasibility study of the bullet train project has been completed and the report says it is feasible.”
“Presently, three per cent people in the country travel by air. When airlines were started, only one per cent people used to fly. But even then every city used to demand an airport and there is a reason for that. When a fast communication system is created, it leads to development and attracts investments,” he said.
“If we take the examples of China and Japan, they witnessed most of their development due to bullet trains. Fast communication results in opening up of backward regions,” he added.
On the bullet train fare structure, Fadnavis said the ticket prices will be not be much in the first 10 years.
“The investment into the project is Rs one lakh crore. The Maharashtra as well as the Gujarat government will have to put their equity money. The debt component will be adjusted in the Centre’s fiscal space and not in the state’s fiscal space,” he said.
Fadnavis said the most important component of the project is the technology transfer.
“It means 100 per cent of the production will be done in the country itself. The investment will be about Rs one lakh crore with less than 0.5 per cent interest on loan. The loan period will be about 50 years.
“And all this investment will be done in the country itself, which will give an impetus to almost all the industrial sectors. There is no repayment in the first 20 years,” he said.
“It will be a huge impetus to the GDP of the state. Presently, Maharashtra’s GDP is Rs 28 lakh crore and in the next 20 years we will be a trillion dollar economy even if we grow at this rate. I feel this project will benefit India,” he said.
On the issues concerning farmers affected by the project, Fadnavis said, “We are seeking a consent of the farmers. For the elevated routes we have devised a formula, wherein if any farmer’s land comes under the bridge, they will not only be given compensation for that land, but will also be allowed to continue farming there.”
“We have taken every care of farmers by bringing them on board and paying heed to the concerns expressed by them,” Fadnavis said.
Stating that the project was initiated during the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure, the CM appealed to the opposition to keep aside politics on the issue and support the project.
On the issue of land acquisition raised by MLC Neelam Gorhe, the chief minister said, “We are discussing the issue with the gram sabhas and public hearings are underway.”
He said the project would not harm the forest land, as the bullet train would run from outside it.
“The project will be pursued only after taking approval from the Wildlife Board and the Supreme Court,” he said.
In September last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for the bullet train project. The project eyes to cut the travel time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad from seven hours to less than three.