India’s first bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai faces opposition both from the public as well as state governments. Farmers hold protests in Gujarat against land acquisition for the bullet train.
Project Acquires 60% Proposed Land but May Fail Deadline
The project is on a fast track as it has already acquired 60% of the proposed land. However, it may still fail to meet the deadline of 2023 owing to the COVID pandemic. National High-Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL), the company in charge of the train road map decreased the land requirement from 1,434.47 hectares to 1,380.08 hectares. Out of this 1,004.91 ha is private land.
The total budget of the plan is Rs 1.08 trillion, of which 81% will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The government has signed a loan agreement for Rs 15,000 crores of the total loan amount of Rs 88,000 crore. Another concern before the project is the falling rupee value against the Japanese yen, which will increase the cost. The company has floated nine civil work tenders. However, chief bids for electrical, rolling stocks and signalling has been opened to Japanese companies only.
High Court Rejects Pleas of Farmers
Around 60% of the 6900 farmers affected by the project have raised objections. They filed pleas that challenged the state amendment that altered the central law of 2013. Several others alleged that the government had acquired their lands without consent and any resettlement package. In this regard, they even demanded compensation based on revised rates. However, the High Court rejected their pleas in October 2019 and upheld the validity of the Land Acquisition Act amended by the Gujarat government in 2016.
Farmer Leader who Fought Against Land Acquisition Joins BJP
Jayesh Patel, Gujarat farmer leader who had been the face of farmers in opposing the land acquisition for the bullet train project, has joined BJP. He said that it is better to resolve the issue by coming in dialogue with the government. Further, he clarified that the farmers have never been against the development and only demanding higher compensations. Farmers in Gujarat held protests in Surat, Navsari and Valsad districts. Also, they filed a petition in High court, which was discarded. Patel is an eminent name in the cooperative sector in south Gujarat.
Farmers Move to Supreme Court
After the rejection of pleas from the high court, more than 50 farmers from four districts in South Gujarat moved to Supreme Court. Patel, president of Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), (under which the farmers have filed the petition) said that they demand implementation of the Central Government Land acquisition Act of 2013. Also, he added that the farmers must get four times the market rates of their lands as compensation. Besides, the company must not acquire their property forcefully.
In all, the farmers want the government to follow a uniform procedure for providing compensation as the project affects people of the two states. Also, it must take into account the rehabilitation and social impact assessment while delivering compensation.