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What the Vande Bharat train says about the lopsided priorities of Indian modernity

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Infrastructure


Source: The Indian Express

 Context:  With the latest edition of the Vande Bharat train, India made a huge leap into the future of mass transportation. However, it has also raised questions, as the poor may not be able to afford these trains.


Examples of skewed priorities of new India:

  • Medical facilities: While Indian hospitals attract people from other countries, most of its primary care clinics don’t have enough doctors.
  • Education: India has the world’s most prestigious engineering institutions, but still half of its children are unable to read and write at the minimum level expected for their age.
  • Food security: While India has food stored in granaries, tens of millions of its children go hungry and are stunted.
  • Road safety: Though all Indian cars must have seatbelts, the most basic rules of road safety such as breaking a red light are not enforced.
  • Sports: While India has the richest sports leagues in the world, it performs dismally at most global sporting competitions.
  • Infrastructure: India builds ultra-modern infrastructure on the banks of the holiest rivers, while these rivers are slowly dying from the most toxic pollution on the planet.


Reasons behind these mismatches: Tension between two competing ideas – achieving Modernisation vs universal access to basic things.


Way ahead – Realising the journey to development:

  • Like western countries, first invest in high-quality primary health care and primary education, and basic infrastructure (like sanitation, and public transportation).
  • Thus, focusing on simple and fundamental things that India overlooks.


About Vande Bharat Express:

●        The Vande Bharat Express/Train 18 is a semi-high-speed, electric multiple units (no separate locomotive) trains launched in 2019 and is operated by the Indian Railways on 5 routes (as of November 2022).

●        It was designed and manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai under the Make in India initiative.

●        Superior features of this new-age train: Reclining seats, automatic fire sensors, CCTV cameras, Wi-fi with on-demand content, etc.


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Mains Links:

Q. “Investment in infrastructure is essential for more rapid and inclusive economic growth.” Discuss in light of India’s experience. (UPSC Mains 2021)