A ground-breaking bullet train project is currently in trouble as farmers are resisting what they described as forceful acquisition of their farmlands for the project.
Disagreements between farmers in India states of Maharashtra and Gujarat could land Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project into a lot of trouble ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, an India-Japan joint venture, is now faced with land acquisition hurdles because farmers from both states are either rejecting the compensation packages or are refusing to part with their lands.
If there is a further delay, then the commissioning of the project and the deadline of 2023 would not be met, admitted the Japanese Consul General at Mumbai while attending a tourism festival in Ahmedabad.
“The bullet train project should be completed by the end of 2023. So there are only five years. We do not have much time. The land problem issue should be solved immediately. Japan and India are in very close collaboration to establish this high-speed train, Noda said.
The latest in the protests come from farmers in Thane. Farmers in the Thane district are unhappy with the land survey being done by district authorities. They said that it was done forcefully with threats of arresting the farmers, who opposed it. ” It takes us Rupees 20 to go to CST station in Mumbai where our youths have jobs. What will they do going to BKC (Bandra-Kurla Bullet train station) by paying Rupees 250, asked Govind Bhagat, President, Aagri Yuvak Sanghatna (AYUS), Maharashtra.
On Wednesday, AYUS led a protest to Thane Collectors office demanding that the bullet train project should be shifted to Vasai Creek route where there will be no loss of farmer land. The families of villagers in Thane have already been subjected to rehabilitation due to previous projects and they say that they can’t take it anymore.
“Joint survey of the land is complete, we will verify the documents of the land and identify the stakeholders. Once that’s done, we will start negotiation for compensation. As per a Maharashtra Government Resolution (GR), we will be buying the land at 125 percent more than the market value. We are confident that at this rate the farmers will be happy,” told Sudam Pardeshi in an interview to India Today.
The land acquired will be 17.5 metres in width. An elevated track will be constructed at the height of 13.5 feet. “All the land comes under various local bodies and have a development plan (DP). The compensation will be given as per reservation of the land in the DP plan. Land required for this project is minimal. If the tracks would go underground, the land requirements would have increased. Keeping the farmers interest in mind it’s elevated even though the cost of project increased due to this change,” added Pardeshi.
Sarla Patil, housewife in Shil village said that she saved Rupees 50 per day over 20 years and bought a shop on the road which was later shifted inside a lane due to widening of the road. “We have already suffered due to past projects. This time our land, house are both being taken in by the bullet train project. Where will we go? There should be some humanity,” said Sarla, whose husband was part of the group, who was detained by Daighar police for stopping the land suvrey.
Gomabama Patil, 66, has 1.5 acres of land in Shil village where he has planted Brinjal, Tomato and Bottle Gourd. “I am farming on this land for 50 years. My son doesn’t earn much in this job hence we are surviving on farming. We should be given five times the market value of land plus a job to part away with this land,” said Gomabama.
Meanwhile, Japanese sources say that they are confident that the government will work out a deal with the farmers. An official said that land acquisition is a challenge. Japan is providing the loan for the project but logistics and implementation is the job of the Indian state said the source.
Being hopeful of acquiring land in time for work to start, an official said, “we are confident that we will be able to finish the project.” Once completed, the travel time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad will decrease to two hours.
The Rupees 1.08 lakh crore-project is being built with Rupees 88,000 crore financial aid from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) with the National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC) as the executing agency.
While both India and Japan are preparing documents and doing paperwork to break ground on this 508-km ambitious project out of which 154.76 km will run through Maharashtra and 40 km within Thane alone. More than 250 farmers from Thane district alone stand to lose a total of 20 hectares of their land.
While the official deadline for the project is 2023, the Indian side is aiming at an early completion by the year 2022. The NHSRC has to acquire over 850 hectares of land in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Dadra & Nagar Haveli (UT).