In a letter to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has urged that a Chinese firm be disallowed from participation in bids, a day after it emerged as the only foreign player for the Railways' global tender for its ambitious semi-high speed indigenous Train 18 project.
CRRC Pioneer Electric (India) Private Limited, one of the six bidders for the project, is a joint venture of the state owned Chinese firm CRRC Corporation Ltd with a Gurugram-based company according to its website.
The tender is for procuring propulsion systems or electric traction kits for 44 trains to function as the Vande Bharat Express or Train 18.
"Our 'boycott Chinese campaign' began on 10th June, 2020. Under our mission statement, 'Bhartiya Saman-Hamara Abhimaan', we request you to please not allow Chinese state-owned CRRC Corporation to participate in global tender for semi-high speed indigenous Train 18 project of Indian Railway The total worth of the project is more than Rs 1,500 crores for 44 Vande Bharat Express Trains," said Praveen Khandelwal, national secretary general, CAIT, in the letter.
The other contenders include Bharat Heavy Electricals, Bharat Industries Sangrur, Hyderabad-based Medha Group, Electrowaves Electronic Pvt Ltd and Mumbai-based Powernetics Equipments Pvt Ltd.
"We appreciate the several steps taken by the Union Government and your Ministry as well to block Chinese companies for their participation in Railways, Highways and other infrastructure-related projects," the letter said.
The global tender worth around Rs 1500 crore was floated on December 22 last year by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai, and was opened on Friday. It is the third such tender floated for these trains.
Floated under the Make in India initiative, the tender was for the supply of electrical equipment and other items for 44 train sets of 16 coaches each.
"We further wish to state that this initiative of the Government is a part of Make in India call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and as such considering the above fact and the current critical period, it will be most appropriate not to consider the said Chinese Company and rather emphasis should be laid more on Indian Companies who have been shortlisted for this project," the letter said.
"We are sure that you will be considering our humble request made in consonance of the call of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for vocal on local and Atmanirbhar Bharat," Khandelwal said in the letter.
Major players like Bombardier, Alstom, Siemens, CAF, Talgo and Mitsubishi did not participate in the bids.
The emergence of a Chinese company as a bidder for these train sets being promoted as indigenous products comes after a violent face-off between India and China in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh last month.
Following a standoff with the neighbouring country, the national transporter cancelled a Rs 471-crore signalling and telecommunication work for a stretch of 417-km on the Kanpur-Deen Dayal Upadhyay (DDU) section by a Chinese company and also scrapped a tender for thermal screening cameras after Indian vendors complained of the bid document favouring the Chinese.
Officials say it might take at least two-and-a-half years for the next Train 18 to be manufactured, thus causing delay in the target set by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who had earlier said the plan was to produce 160 coaches in 2019-20, 240 coaches in 2020-21 and 240 coaches in 2021-22 at the ICF in Chennai.
All coaches in these trains will be Chair Car type for day travel. They will be provided with cab AC, fully air-conditioned passenger compartment with vestibule arrangement, automatic plug doors with retractable footsteps, automatic intercommunication door, in-coach displays, speakers, side destination boards, luggage racks with reading lamps, direct lighting and diffused lighting (for luggage racks), continuous LED light fixtures, modular pantry equipment and GPS antenna in all coaches, Mobile/laptop charging sockets in the passenger seats, CCTVs and Emergency talk back units with networking system in all coaches.