Bullet train: Gujarat farmers up in arms, oppose land surveys

Farmers in Gujarat have opposed the land acquisition for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project, demanding that the land surveys be conducted under the central land acquisition act and not under Gujarat’s amended land act

Land acquisition for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project is facing opposition from farmers in Gujarat, with villagers not allowing the joint measurement survey to take place in many places. Farmer leaders are demanding that acquisition should take place under the central law and not the state act. A survey team was turned back twice, from Vaghaldhara area in Valsad district.

Bhagubhai Patel, a farmer from the nearby Saron village, said villagers were not given intimation about the survey in time. “A survey team was turned away, after farmers objected saying they were not informed in advance. Earlier too around 150 affected farmers had gathered, raising objection, not letting the team to conduct the survey,” he said. “The land which is being acquired is fertile and well-irrigated, known for cultivation of export-quality fruit. The government should instead utilise the land acquired for the Dedicated Freight Corridor project,” Patel said. “We are being informed about the survey very late, leaving very little time to respond, sometimes only one or two days ahead, against the stipulated 60 days under the land acquisition act,” he said.

The project, the foundation stone for which was laid by prime minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in September 2017, is facing resistance in eight districts of Gujarat, through which the train will run. “Gujarat’s amended land acquisition act (of 2016) has done away with provisions (in the central act), such as consent of 70-80 per cent of farmers, social and environmental impact assessment, rehabilitation and other safeguards,” said Sagar Rabari, who is associated with Gujarat Khedut Samaj, which is spearheading opposition to the project.

See also: Want our nod for bullet train? Give us doctors, street lights, medicines, say Palghar villagers

The BJP-ruled state has diluted certain provisions of the 2013 land acquisition act passed under the UPA government, by making amendments, doing away with the mandatory social impact assessment and consent of a majority of farmers. Land acquisition for the bullet train project, is being carried out under this amended state act of 2016.

Krishnakant of NGO Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti said that several villages have decided, not to allow the land survey until the government deals with their objections. “This being a multi-state project (across Gujarat and Maharashtra), the acquisition process should be conducted by the central government and not the state. Farmers are likely to challenge the acquisition on this ground in courts,” he said.

“The project is not viable. There are already 26 flights, 69 trains and around 125 daily luxury buses, connecting Ahmedabad and Mumbai,” Rabari said.

In Gujarat, around 850 hectares of land would be acquired for the project, across the districts of Ahmedabad, Kheda, Anand, Vadodara, Bharuch, Surat, Navsari and Valsad, affecting around 5,000 families. Officials claimed that the acquisition process was on track and the government has consulted the affected farmers. ‘Stakeholder consultation meetings’ have been held with affected farmers across 30 tehsils, an official said. “We are in the process of conducting joint measurement surveys,” said Dwipayan Dutta, a project consultant.

District land revenue officials are conducting joint measurement surveys, with the officials of National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (the project implementing agency), he said. “These surveys, to ascertain the ownership of land, are a prerequisite for deciding compensation. A list of land owners will then be published, as per the land acquisition act. Thereafter, the compensation will be decided,” he added. The Rs 1.10 lakh crore project is expected to be fully operational by 2023. Japan is extending a loan of Rs 88,000 crores for it, at an interest rate of 0.1 per cent.

 

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