Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray would do himself, his state and the nation a massive disservice, if he were to cancel major economic projects merely because the predecessor government had initiated them. Many pros and cons were weighed on high-speed rail connectivity between the commercial hubs, Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
A decision was taken to go ahead. A foreign partner was involved, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, which is providing long-term funds for 80% of the project cost of Rs 1.08 lakh crore. Land acquisition has already been completed for much of the 500-odd-km long new track and 12 stations proposed. Tenders are ready. To stop such a project would be a setback not just to the specific rail project but to India’s institutional credibility as a reliable economic partner in the world’s eyes.
Similarly, the new government of Maharashtra has stayed Metro construction work at the Aarey premises, where passions had risen in the course of a battle between tree lovers and champions of the far greater environmental benefits a Metro link would bring, as compared to the trees that needed to be cut down to build the Metro link.
In either case, it is true, chief minister Thackeray has shown prudence by not announcing any precipitate action on the projects in question, limiting himself to a review, in the case of the bullet train project, and a stay, in the case of Metro construction.
Any new development project that entails change of land use creates some losers, whose vocal protest often tends to drown out all rational arguments about the far greater social benefit that is to accrue from the project, benefit that would outweigh the cost. As part of managing the politics of such protest, it is often expedient to order reviews and stays.
That would be understandable. Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Reddy’s action of halting work on major development projects initiated by the predecessor government has already hurt India’s risk profile. The damage would be greater, if politics runs amok in India’s commercial capital.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Economic Times.
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