Lalu in Japan-of Japan and it’s people
By Vijay Darda
Former president Dr S Radhakrishnan, a great philosopher, had defined a country's culture as the fragrance of a flower. It can best be experienced by senses and its impact is also visible to eyes in either objects or its transformation into material beings. This very fact was experienced by me during a week-long visit to Japan as a part of a delegation that visited Japan along with Union railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav recently. I witnessed this cultural impact in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara and Kobe or wherever we went and it was a great experience of learning about Japanese culture.
We witnessed the rich Japanese culture in attire and language, food delicacies and even in behaviour of Japanese citizens. The average Japanese citizen is punctual to the dot and is sensitive about environmental concerns. This is also evident from the congenial talk of every Japanese citizen. They have great patience and seldom do they interrupt any one until he is finished talking. Even Laluji also appreciated this great virtue, although he is immensely popular among Japanese people because of his down-to-earth practical manners and style. Due to this, wherever Laluji spoke, people listened to him with rapt attention demonstrating their deep-rooted respect for democracy and its principles.
Though Buddhism is the dominant religion of Japan, efforts put in by Japanese people to keep alive good cultural heritage from Indonesia, Thailand and also Hinduism are evident in Japanese society. While one sees idols of characters from Mahabharat, one also sees idols depicting Bhagwan Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Krishna in Japan. There are temples enshrined with huge idols of Bhagwan Buddha in Tokyo and Kyoto. When one begins to think that Japan may be aloof from fanaticism, one is reminded of the carnage in which Bhagwan Buddha's temple was twice burnt down by fanatics.
This incident saddens the mind. At once I remembered the fruitless efforts done by fanatics to destroy the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya, which is still standing tall and its branches spread world over and enlightening masses. Be it Nara or Golden Temple, the fanatics will never succeed in their evil objectives.
The Buddha temple at Nara also reminded me of the Nalanda town in Laluji's Bihar. It is the same Nalanda University which once had enlightened the Chinese scholars Hue en Sang and Fahyan. The Nalanda University which in ancient times was the epicentre of knowledge later fell to evil designs of fanatics and lost its glory. But even today Nalanda preaches us the Buddhism's highest credo - Buddham saranam gacchami - with its indelible impact. That is perhaps why Japanese singer Minehaha runs about half a dozen schools in Bodh Gaya but she is pained with the non-cooperation from the Bihar government and seeks help from Laluji. Laluji assured her to extend all help in her august endevour. But Minehaha is not the sole Japanese who had taken up the good mission thousands of miles away from her home. The entire Japan is populated with such people. That is why you will not find any litter on bus or railway station. The obsession with cleanliness is so all pervading that as soon as a train halts at a platform, a ready team of girls with vacuum cleaners pounces on it and cleans the train and that too within just two minutes. The civic bodies in Japan also appoint citizens in each locality who collect garbage and send it to garbage recycling centres. Visit any place in Japan and it looks spick-and-span.
The Japanese also respect discipline and have deep concern for environment. You can see morning walkers out on streets even in bone chilling temperature of one degree Celsius. People have started using bicycles for public transport abandoning motor cars and this has resulted in average increase in longevity of the Japanese.
I also had the opportunity to see the world-class railway stations in Japan. The train journey in Japan is not just comfortable but also more convenient than air travel. That is why train fares in Japan are more than air fares.
In Tokyo alone, every day 80 lakh passengers use the train for commuting. The trains like it occupants run on time and accidents are just negligible. The trains also are multi-decked and stations are clean and pollution free. The interesting aspect is that noise pollution too has been reduced to a considerable level. The uniforms of train staff are better than airplane pilots. This will be a surprising thing for Indians. However, the announcement to run Bullet Trains in India made by Laluji indicates that the future of train travel in India too is destined to be glorious.
The week-long visit of Laluji to Japan gave us an insight into the functioning of Bullet Train service in Japan. Laluji was so impressed by these trains that he announced to introduce such trains in India linking several key cities. Laluji also said that he would float global tenders for accomplishing the Bullet Train project and also table a resolution to this effect in Parliament.
The Bullet Trains are proposed to run on routes like Mumbai-Chennai, Delhi-Howrah, Chennai-Howrah along with Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Delhi-Chandigarh and Delhi-Patna. The railway minister has announced that the project will be completed with technical collaboration with global companies.
Laluji himself took a ride on the Bullet Train, which is known as Shinkansen, between Tokyo and Kyoto and he announced his plans to introduce it in India at Singapore. He also made enquiries about how these super fast trains can be run on crowded Indian rail tracks. It is sure that once the Bullet trains are introduced they will ease the traffic congestion on rail tracks and result in greater efficiency and productivity of Indian railway network.
The Japanese consortium Japan International Cooperation Agency already has shown readiness to fund the project through four billion dollars loan. However, the Japanese want that the project be completed with 30 per cent participation of expertise of Japanese companies. Laluji thinks that if the project is to be completed with Japanese partnership, then there should be technical expertise transfer to India. Laluji was accompanied by chairman of Railway Board, KC Jena, his personal assistant Mahajabin and additional secretary Vinod Shrivastava.
There is a town named Rajgir in Bihar. According to Buddhist Jatak Katha, Bhagwan Buddha had met a bandit Angulimal here in Rajgir. Angulimal resided in caves and used to wear the chain of human skulls around his neck. When Bhagwan Buddha came to know this, he went to Rajgir and Angulimal tried to attack him. But the nearer he went to Bhagwan Buddha, the distance between him and Bhagwan Buddha increased. Finally defeated, Angulimal surrendered before Bhagwan Buddha. The folk lore is very much akin to another story of dacoit Ratnakar. When Ratnakar tried to loot some saints he got impressed by their erudition and finally became the great poet Valmiki, who later composed the epic Ramayana. Angulimal became the disciple of Bhagwan Buddha and stayed for a long time in Rajgir. Today Rajgir is known for its Japanese Buddhist temple.
The story has been narrated here to emphasise the point that it has great impact on the Japanese people. This is also evident from the progress of Japan from a vanquished country of World War II which also saw the holocaust of the Atom Bomb havoc at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. And yet today Japan has turned itself into global technological and industrial power.
Today Japanese economy is the second strongest economy in the world. While China retains the number one position with 1900 billion dollars GDP, Japan comes second with 1200 billion dollars. Compared to this, India's GDP is just 300 billion dollars and that indicates the many stages of development India has to achieve. It can be said that Lauji's visit to Japan can prove to be a watershed for railway transport system in India.
Talking about the Dedicated Freight Corridor project, Laluji has made it clear that Japan should not just provide us materials but also should share technical know-how with us. The project entails four billion dollar Japanese loan and Japan wants that India should source 70 per cent of its material. Against this backdrop, Lauji's expectations are definitely in the national interest coming from a seasoned politician.
The Japanese economy puts more emphasis on partnership. For example, Kawasaki manufactures trains while the electrical expertise is provided by Mitsubishi. The situation is such that both these companies are using only 30 per cent of their installed capacity. Similarly, Mitsubishi has entered into a tie-up Birlas in India and in Japan our industrialists like Rahul Bajaj and Brijmohanlal Munjal are immensely popular.
Only time will tell what future lies for this partnerships. But it is certain that the future of Indo-Japan economic cooperation is bright. Reason being that both the economies are upwardly mobile and they also share a common culture from ancient times. The Buddhist Jatak Katha tells us that on many occasions, efforts were made to disturb Bhagwan Buddha in his pursuit for knowledge but it never had any effect on Bhagwan Buddha. Similar to this, we can hope that efforts by negative elements to discourage the cooperation between these two countries also will not have any impact on their progress.
(The author is a member of Rajya Sabha)