Dear Indians, Do We Really Need Bullet Trains?

The highly ambitious dream of our PM Shri Narendra Modi for India’s first high-speed bullet train which would run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai is close to becoming a reality. As the bullet train project continues to gather steam, questions about whether high-speed trains serve India’s interests and make sense within the Indian context remain a big question.

The project funded by Japan International Cooperative Agency (JICA) is certainly going to be a new ‘feather’ in the cap of “Indian Railways”, but the question remains: are Indians dreaming of a bullet train? The average Indian is more likely to dream about a train that runs on time and helps them reach their destination on time, a train that is clean, a train whose pipelines are not chocked, a train that doesn’t stink, a train that is safe.

Anyone who actually travels by train is bound to know about the current condition of the trains. Today, the ordinary traveler, who prefers to travel by train is familiar with the unbearable frustration of sitting in trains that routinely reach their destination hours behind schedule.

Calculations already clearly show that the Indian Bullet trains are never going to be economical compared to air travel. Even the pro-Bullet train/ pro-Narendra Modi crowd agree that they will be three times more expensive than flights between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. So then the question arises, do we really need a bullet train? In a country like ours, the priority of the ruling government should be ‘Roti-Kapda-Makaan’, jobs, saving our farmers, economic stability, investing in the existing infrastructure, industrial development, robust banking and telecom sector. But what the current NDA government is doing right now is to pick up inappropriate, non-competitive and expensive technology in a clumsy effort to show to the world that we have arrived.

 

India’s rail network, built by the British over 160 years ago, is enormous. It carries 23 million passengers every day — equivalent to the population of Australia — on 12,000 trains over tracks that could circle the globe but Indian railways has long suffered from outdated and crumbling infrastructure. As a result, train derailments happen regularly. A dozen were reported in the past six months alone, including one at New Delhi station a few hours before Modi and Abe attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the bullet train. Around 13,000 Indians died in railway accidents in 2015 and 2016, according to official data.

The Indian Railways is the country’s largest public investment, employing over a million people. Over the decades they have been neglected and have lost market share to other modes of transport. A rejuvenation of the Indian Railways is badly needed, but not through elitist solutions like bullet trains. Investment in new rails, signaling equipment, rolling stock of wagons and upliftment of passenger facilities will ultimately lead to better services and faster trains.

There are also various barriers to the bullet train project. Cost of construction, high fares and land acquisition remain the three major issues. Already, farmers from Surat and other districts in the state have moved the Gujarat High Court against the state government’s move to acquire their land for the bullet train project. Over 3,000 farmers from 192 villages in Gujarat will be affected by the land acquisition for the ambitious project that will connect Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Farmers in Boisar in Palghar district of Maharashtra are also regularly staging protests against the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, expressing apprehension that they would lose their land on account of it. So who is benefitting from this project? Surely not the common people of India, surely not the farmers, that is why the question arises then who?

Rather than wasting the taxpayer’s money, the NDA government under Narendra Modi should spend a great deal of time, effort and money to improve its creaking railway system, decaying banking system, the bleeding economy and more importantly safeguard the people of this great nation.

As of now, we cannot afford the bullet train. The idea of the bullet trains is not worth to be pursued. Instead, the government should re-negotiate with the Japanese authorities, The World Bank for a loan to cover the upgradation of the rail network of the entire country. If Narendra Modi can make that happen, he will surely leave a legacy that Indians will be proud of for generations to come.

Dear Modi Ji, do you have the strength, integrity and love for the country to genuinely work for the real issues? With all modesty, can I request you to let go of your arrogance and egotism for the good of the country? The country needs heroes to address the real issues. Are you one?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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