Railways spent Rs 5.6 cr on four Vande Bharat train inaugurations by PM Modi
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge says this government has become an ‘event-jeevi’
The flagging off of Vande Bharat trains by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an extravaganza that runs into crores. The Indian Railways has spent Rs 5,60,87,237 to organise four events to launch four Vande Bharat trains across the country, show RTI responses.
This amount was spent inaugurating the Vande Bharat trains between Puri in Odisha and West Bengal’s Howrah; Ajmer in Rajasthan to Delhi Cantt; Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargod in Kerala; and Chennai-Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.
The response from the East Coast Railway obtained under the Right to Information Act revealed that the cost incurred for the flagging off of the Vande Bharat Express on May 18 between Puri in Odisha and West Bengal’s Howrah by PM Modi was Rs 2.5 crore. Interestingly, this train was flagged off via video conferencing. Soon after the inauguration, the train had to be cancelled on May 22 as the rake was damaged due to a thunderstorm and required extensive repair.
This was the same route which saw the June 2 accident involving three trains in Odisha’s Balasore in which at least 300 people were killed and a thousand injured. As a result of the major accident, the Vande Bharat trains had been halted on the route and it crossed the site of the accident on June 5.
This information came to light in the responses to queries sought under the Right to Information Act by a rights activist Ajay Bose.
Slamming the union government, Congress president and former railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge underscored that it was absolutely shameful to see that Modi Govt is splurging huge amounts of public money in inaugurating and creating events around the Vande Bharat Trains.
“This government has become an ‘Event-Jeevi Govt’!” quipped Kharge. It is shocking, said the Congress president, that over 67,000 trains were cancelled in South East Central Zone in the past three years alone. “They can spend crores on creating high decibel drama and events around Vande Bharat trains, but can't run important trains necessary for the daily commuting of our poor people,” he added.
The North Western Railway stated that the total expenditure incurred by the public relations department for the flagging off of the Vande Bharat Express from Ajmer to Delhi Cantt by the Prime Minister on April 12 was Rs 48,26,870. This train, which is Rajasthan’s first Vande Bharat Express train was flagged off via video conferencing.
According to the response from Southern Railway, the inauguration of the Thiruvananthapuram-Kasargod Vande Bharat on April 25 by PM Modi cost Rs 1,48,18, 259. This was the amount paid to the event management company, Thiruvananthapuram-based Maitri Advertising, hired for the programme.
The Southern Railway, in another response, stated that the inauguration of Chennai-Coimbatore Vande Bharat train on April 8 incurred a cost of Rs 1,14,42, 108. Of this, Rs 1.05 crore was paid to the event management company Evoke Media, which was hired to organise the programme. Run by businessman Cilvin J, Evoke Media had also organised the second India- China Informal Summit that took place in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Chennai in 2019.
Currently, there are VB trains are running across 25 routes the country, as per the ministry of railways. The first Vande Bharat train was inaugurated in 2019 and these have been billed as India's first semi high speed trains. These trains have the capability of travelling at 160 kph, however the maximum speed they go at is 130 kph due to track limitations.
PM Modi’s inauguration spree
The revelation on the spend on Vande Bharat train inaugurations follows after it was revealed that the former Bharatiya Janata Party government in Karnataka led by Basavaraj Bommai spent Rs 9.49 crore on promotions and logistics for the inauguration of IIT-Dharwad’s new campus by Modi on March 12 this year. Of this, Rs 61 lakh was spent on the branding of the event.
In February 2023, the Bommai government spent over Rs 36.43 crore to make arrangements for Modi’s visit to Karnataka’s Shivamogga and Belagavi. He was in Shivamogga to inaugurate an airport and in Belgavi for a roadshow.
The government had stated in the Karnataka Gazetteer that it had spent Rs 21.06 crore to make arrangements for the inauguration of the airport and it included transportation facilities to people to attend the event. In Belgavi, Rs 13.39 crore was spent for a public meeting and Rs 1.98 crore to put up 30-km-long barricade.
Being critical of the unnecessary spending by the BJP government, Kharge said when he was part of the UPA ministry they didn’t hire event management companies. “Our department would do all arrangements. People of that area would put up posters thanking the government and the leadership. It’s unfortunate that the Central Government is squandering people’s hard earned money for needless self glorification and PR stunts. This needs to stop,” highlighted Kharge.
Published: 13 Jul 2023, 1:58 PM