(p. A1) In a country where major industry and political fortunes alike are often tied to a vast, interwoven rail system, India has lavished public resources on new trains, but its purse strings have been much tighter when it comes to ensuring the safety of those already racing along its tracks.
Those decisions loomed large on Sunday [June 4, 2023] in the aftermath of a devastating train wreck that killed at least 275 people in eastern India.
. . .
Over the past years, India has been polishing its long-ramshackle infrastructure as never before, and its railways, which are at the heart of the world’s fifth-largest economy, have been a prime beneficiary. The government spent almost $30 billion on the rail system during the past fiscal year, up 15 percent from the year before.
But the amount spent on basic track maintenance and other safety measures has been falling. A report last year by India’s auditor general, an independent office, found that less money was being allocated for track renewal work and that officials had not even spent the full (p. A11) amount set aside.
. . .
. . . most of Mr. Modi’s initiatives have been aimed not at the basic steps needed to get trains from Point A to Point B without mishap, but at improving speed and comfort. He regularly extols higher-fare new electric Vande Bharat trains connecting bigger cities and has made an early priority of a Japanese-style bullet train, though it can do nothing to improve the lives of the country’s ordinary passengers.
For the full commentary, see:
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 18, 2023, and has the title “Money for Show Horses, Not Work Horses, on India’s Rails.”)