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Inter-city luxury train launched amidst Sri Lankan crisis

Amidst a surge in food prices and shortages of basic necessities such as medicine and fuel, Sri Lanka recently launched a  luxury inner-city train circling from the tip of the North Jaffna Peninsula, Kankesanthurai, to Colombo’s Mount Lavinia suburb with the assistance of India’s credit line.

The inauguration ceremony took place at the Mount Lavinia Railway station with the presence of Sri Lanka’s transport minister Pavithra Wanniaachchi and India’s Deputy High Commissioner Vinod K Jacob who tweeted, “Powering Sri Lanka railway infrastructure forward!! The train service launched today to the Northern Province highlights 2 key pillars of Flag of India's development partnership with #lka - infrastructure development and country-wide focus,” highlighting it as another significant landmark.

India provided Sri Lanka with air-conditioned AC Diesel Multiple Units supplied by RITES, which is said to be one of the many projects that India will be assisting Sri Lanka with through the Indian Line of Credit assistance. The train has ten compartments and two power locomotives. While this may be beneficial for Sri Lanka and India’s growing relationship, it is debatable whether this eases the burden carried by many ordinary Sri Lankans day-to-day.

Price inflations continue to wreak havoc across the island, high prices in essential goods such as milk powder, sugar, and cooking gas have resulted in ordinary people cutting back on their food intake. Additionally, routine power cuts have also been imposed as of recently due to the state’s inability to buy fuel oil with the worsening of the dollar crisis and the state-sponsored Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB)’s refusal to supply fuel.

Towards the end of last year, MP Jagath also publicly stated that “sacrifices must be made for the welfare of the future generations, even if it requires that the people eat two meals instead of three". Many Sri Lankans are struggling to afford two meals a day.

Earlier last year, the leak of the Pandora papers brought to light the offshore accounts of close relatives of Gotabaya, Nirupama Rajapakse, and her husband, Thirukumar Nadesan who own numerous luxury homes, artwork, and cash all under the guise of shell companies in London and Sydney. While the average annual income of Sri Lanka was less than $4000 dollars, and now even less it was determined in 2017 that Nadesan who has previously been under public scrutiny for his corruption holds the value of $18 million. The couple is believed to have built their off-shore empire whilst the country was torn in two at the height of the armed conflict. Nadesan has also previously been accused of assisting one of his in-laws, a government minister in building a luxury villa with government funds.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka also continues to plead with China for assistance in easing their debts, by suggesting a rescheduling of debt payments in light of the current economic crisis. This poses the question of whether a luxury inter-city train is really what Sri Lanka needs and whether more can be done to help the families really suffering due to the economy.


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