While the Bullet of Hatred Trail Kills, the Bullet Train Cripples Generations in Debt

Written by Anand Teltumbde | Published on: October 9, 2017
On September 5, the bullet trail of the Hindutva forces devoured one more precious life. Personally speaking, this was my third loss of a comrade or a friend—Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Com. Govind Pansare and now Gauri Lankesh. The man on the street also broadly knows who their killers are but even after nearly four years the investigations have not reached anywhere.

Bullet Train
Image: Economic Times
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Maharashtra Police had apprehended one Sameer Gaikwad, a Sadhak of the Sanatan Sanstha on September 15, 2015 for the murder of Pansare and filed a charge sheet against him on December 14, 2015. In Dabholkar’s case, the CBI, brought in following directions from the Bombay High Court, had arrested one Dr Virendra Tawde, an ENT specialist and a member of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), a splinter of the Sanatan Sanstha in Pune in June 2016 on charges of arranging weapons and logistics. Recently (on June 17, 2017), Gaikwad managed to get bail from the Kolhapur district and sessions court, which was rejected earlier by the same court as well as by the High Court, and effectively demolished the hope of getting justice to these martyrs. His two accomplices, Vinay Pawar and Sarang Akolkar, both Sanstha members are still at large. There is absolutely nothing happening in Kalburgi’s case. The Karnataka government, as though to cover up its inaction, has now given a state funeral to Gauri.
While the world is aghast at the impunity with which these murders are being committed, the prime minister does not feel worth his while even to say a word of concern. On the contrary, he follows the bunch of hindutva bigots who openly celebrated killing of Gauri, abusing her in filthiest terms on social media. Some of them are even rewarded with plum posts within the BJP. As a matter of fact, perhaps there is nothing indecent or vulgar when it comes to the partisan behavior of the Modi government. All the culprits of the Gujarat carnage and the accused in several acts of the Hindu terror stand acquitted and on the contrary, those like Teesta Setalvad are harassed and the late Hemant Karkare maligned. As this bullet trail continues unhindered pushing India into dark abyss of bigotry and backwardness, Modi has an ego trip on a bullet train to project India’s forwardness. What is common to both these seemingly dissimilar acts is the impunity and unscrupulousness of the current ruling dispensation.

Terror Tracks
Why did they kill Gauri? She was surely opposed to the communal politics and the cultural mumbo-jumbo of the Hindutva forces but that is unlikely to have been the sole reason because there were scores of others who were more intensely opposed to them than her or previous three in the trail. All of them --rather-- reflected a liberal outlook and still spoke unambiguously against the hindutva overtures. This could communicate to the common people more effectively than the radical voice of the diehard opponent of the hindutva forces. It is meant not just to eliminate an individual but to terrorise many others who might follow in their footsteps. Being the least of the suspects, these individuals, moreover, become relatively soft targets.
The outfit that is linked by the investigation is the Goa-based Sanatan Sanstha run by a Ericksonian hypnotherapist Jayant Athawale, who is said to transform his subjects into human automatons to make them commit any crime. The Sadhaks of this Sanstha were arrested earlier in four bombings in VashiThanePanvel (all in 2007) and Goa (in 2009). The Maharashtra ATS had filed a 1,020-page charge sheet against six of them and others of Sanstha affiliate, the HJS, for these blasts in 2008. However, Ranjit Patil,  Maharashtra’s minister of state for home (The Asian Age, October  8, 2015), the Karnataka CID, Mohammed, Akram (The New Indian Express, July 22, 2016), and none other than chief minister of Goa, Laxmikant Parsekar (Times of India, September 24, 2015) and Minister of state for home for Government of India spoke out against banning the Sanatan Sanstha.
Why ? Largely because the investing agency had established that the weapon used (7.65 mm country-made pistols) and the modus operandi of all these murders was similar and directly and circumstantially pointed to the people connected with the Sanatan Sanstha. The CID in Karnataka is also on the lookout for Rudra Patil, another Sanatan sadhak who is an accused in the 2010 Goa blast case. Athavale, however, remains untouched although an array of crazy violent rants of his books and proclamations of “war for righteousness” can be directly linked to these heinous acts.

His publications have been openly exhorting its members that violence against durjans (evil) is not actually violence at all. His timetable for a successful Dharmayudh, against “evil-doers” (rationalists, Muslims, Christians and Hindus who don’t follow their dictates) in order to establish a “Divine Kingdom” runs as follows: 1997-1999: Impressing the minds of people that destroying evil doers is part of spiritual practice. 2000-2006: Actually performing the act of destroying evil doers. 2007-2022: Learning how to run Divine Kingdom. And 2023-2025: Commencement of the Divine Kingdom. One wonders whether the coherence of this time line with what Modi and his cohorts have begun speaking of 2022-23 just incidental? These details had come into the open through a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed against the Sanstha by Vijay Rokade in 2011, much before Dabholkar was murdered. While it was heard until 2013, since then, it has not come up for hearing.
High speed Hera-Pheri
While the bullet trail eliminated select individuals, the bullet train, born out of Modi’s megalomaniac obsession, will saddle entire coming generations with huge debt. Ironically, the bullet train is announced in the backdrop of 193 deaths from train derailments in 2016-17, the highest in a decade.[1] As many as 1,394 train accidents were reported over the last decade, of which 51% or 708 were due to derailments. They are mainly caused by excessive traffic and neglect of investment in maintenance of rail infrastructure. The other priority sectors like education and healthcare have accumulated huge backlogs and are further made to suffer in Modi era. The healthcare spend came down to 1.2% of the GDP, the lowest in a decade as against the global average of 5.4%. Education likewise stagnated at 2.7% of GDP, with increasing push to privatization. The agrarian distress is further deepened due to continued starving of investment. In such a context, the profligate idea of having a bullet train, relevant at the most to 4% of people should be nationally distasteful. But it is being justified widely including the bankrupt opposition that lost its coherence against Modi’s onslaught.

The cost of the Mumbai-Ahmadabad High Speed Railway (HSR) project is estimated at $17 billion (Rs 1.1 lakh crore) of which Rs 88,000 is coming as Yen-denominated loan from Japan at 0.1 % interest rate, with moratorium of 15 years payable over 50 years period. Obviously, Rs 22,000 crores is to be contributed by India to create this white elephant. This money could have been better spent to improve safety of railways for the average Indian or by providing with 140,000 bio-toilets in 55,000 trains to do away the national shame of having manual scavengers in the employ of the government. The government of India -- that paradoxically spends crores of rupees on Amitabh Bachchan --to canvass for Swacchh Bharat is actually an offender by employing persons into manual scavenging an act that is now illegal after the enactment of the 2013 law. This once again, exposes how the BJP can jeopardise national interests to score brownie points for its petty electoral gains.

Railway Projects Supported by the World Bank in China[2]
Project Max. Speed kph/Type Length Km Total Estimated Cost RMB b Unit Cost RMB m/km Period of Construction
Shijiazhuang - Zhengzhou 350 355 43.9 123 2008-12
Guiyang - Guangzhou 250 857 94.6 110 2008-14
Jilin- Hunchun 250 360 39.6 110 2010-14
Zhangjiakou – Hohhot 250 286 34.6 121 2013-17
Nanning – Guangzhou 200 (mixed) 463 41.0 89 2008-14
Harbin – Jiamusi 200 (Mixed) 343 33.9 99 2014-17
Any public mega project of such magnitude has to have a competitive bidding backed by a feasibility study. Neither have been conducted for Modi’s bullet train. The BJP shamelessly dodges the question by saying that Japanese being the smartest investors must have done performed a efasibility study before investing into this project! The study by the professors of IIM, Ahmedabad had almost concluded that the project was infeasible. Prima facie, the CAG should object to it as irregular.
Modi bragged to the public that it was coming free. Really?
It is well known that the Chinese have an edge in HSR technology at the least cost. As the data in table shows that its unit cost varied between $ 18.66 to 13.5 Million per km. As against this, the cost of the Japanese bullet train works out to $ 27.44 Million per km. That means the investments are inflated by a factor of 1.45 to 2. Indians have been misled by the low interest rate but they are not told that the Japanese interest rate has been sub-zero. Therefore, from Japanese viewpoint 0.1% interest is quite profitable. The effective rate, moreover, would be substantially high in view of the expected appreciation of Yen against Rupee. For example, the yen appreciated by 64% against the rupee in the last ten years (from Ye-Rupee exchange of 0.3517 on September 17, 2007 to 0.5786 on 15 September, 2017.) With the Japanese economy expected to look up, this appreciation may still be higher. Additionally, Japanese strategic interests need to be taken into account in selling their “Shinkansen” for which there has not been any taker for years. Notwithstanding the technology transfer embedded in the agreement, there shall be demand for their wares for many years to come. It may be simply summed up as follows: We bought a thing of questionable value to us for Rs 88 that may be just worth 44 spending Rs 22 upfront to be paid for by future generations with an uncertain escalation.
Modi maintains a holy silence over the bullet trail of Hindutva fringe as though in tacit approval of their project of  slaying ‘demons’ to establish the kingdom of angels, a la hindu rashtra, but turns very vocal over ‘development’ that is rightly depicted by the bullet train syndrome. Both are hugely injurious to the people of India.
(A version of this also appears in the Economic and Political Weekly  has been shared with us by the author)
[1] Data tabled in the Rajya Sabha, on March 31, 2017 and August 11, 2017.
[2] Gerald Ollivier, Jitendra Sondhi and Nanyan Zhou, High-Speed Railways in China: A Look at Construction Costs, World Bank Office, Beijing http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/695111468024545450/pdf/892000B....