MUMBAI: The stampede at a Mumbai suburban train station on Thursday has provided the occasion for the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to threaten the sort of disruption it specializes in – such as the digging up of pitches ahead of cricket matches. Now the small party’s leader Raj Thackeray has said his party won't allow work to be done on the bullet train project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s latest dream, in Mumbai.
"We won't allow even a brick of the bullet train project in Mumbai till issues related to suburban railway stations are tackled," Raj Thackeray said at a press conference he called to blame the Union government for the stampeded at Elphinstone Road railway station on Thursday.
The MNS leader said Narendra Modi might well start the project in Gujarat but if anyone as much as laid a brink for it in Mumbai, the MNS would him a lesson.
Thackeray blamed the government and the rail administration for the sorry state of affairs at suburban railway stations in Mumbai. "The government has changed. But conditions at the railway station remain unchanged even after the BJP replaced the Congress," he said.
However, Narendra Modi was not the only target of Raj Thackeray’s ire. Mimicking his late uncle Bal Thackeray's pet issue, he said the root cause of overcrowding in Mumbai’s railway stations was the pouring in of migrants into Mumbai. "There has been a collapse of infrastructure due to the migrant influx from other regions," he said.
Raj Thackeray said he drew these conclusions from his own experience of travelling in suburban trains for two years while studying arts at the Sir J J College. "What you call the famed spirit of Mumbai which overcomes such tragedies is actually hopelessness in face of such calamities."
The MNS leader said the bullet train project was an example of misplaced priorities. The Kakodkar Committee had recommended spending Rs 1 lakh crore to improve railway infrastructure but there were no takers for it. Instead, the bullet train project, costing the same amount, was being implemented. "Does one need a bullet train or improvement of basic rail infrastructure," Raj Thackeray asked.
Thackeray also said he would lead a protest march against the government on October 5 to make the government answer questions raised by his party. He invited Mumbaikars to participate in the protest in large numbers to make the government aware of their outrage.
"Such marches make an impact. Last time when we organized a march, the city police commissioner was transferred," he said while recalling an MNS march in August 2011 to protest vandalism after the Raza Academy's rally at Azad Maidan to protest the killing of Rohingyas in Myanmar.