A spokesperson for the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHRCL), which is implementing the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, on May 3, 2018, assured that due care had been taken to cause the least inconvenience to farmers and farm labourers and simultaneously protect their rights. “In case of land acquisition through consent, the land loser would get an additional 25 per cent of the market value of the land, over and above the compensation entitled under Land Act, 2013,” a statement issued by the NHRCL said.
The statement came, a day after Congress MP Ahmed Patel wrote to the prime minister, expressing concern over the process of land acquisition for the ambitious project. In the letter to the PM, Patel had alleged that farmers’ representatives had complained that rules and procedures under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, were not being adhered to, while land was being acquired for the project. He claimed meetings were being conducted at barely a day’s notice, without appropriate publicity. Under the Gujarat government’s regulations, the need for mandatory consent of farmers and a social impact assessment had been done away with, Patel said.
The NHRCL clarified that land was being acquired under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2016 and maintained this was not a dilution of the 2013 Act. “The Amendment Act of Gujarat is not a diluted version of the 2013 Act. In fact, through the Amendment Act, a new section – 23A – has been introduced, to facilitate acquisition of land through consent,” the statement said. The compensation to the farmers to be paid under the Gujarat Amendment Act, 2016, was higher than the payment worked out under the Land Act, 2013, it said.
“The acquisition of land for the rail project of this scale, has been kept (to the) bare minimum by constructing high speed lines on viaduct, thereby, reducing the total land width being acquired for the project to only 17.5 metres,” NHRCL spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar said. He also said public consultation was being carried out in different stages and at various levels. “It is ensured that the farmers and other non-title holders, such as farm labourers, would be given a patient hearing and under no circumstances their rights would be trampled on,” he said.
The statement said a social impact assessment survey was also being carried out, to ascertain loss of livelihoods and forests and the land losers would be suitably compensated, to cover these losses under the provisions of Land Act, 2013. “Compensation will be given for loss of residential/commercial structures equivalent to replacement cost of the structure. Assistance will be given for shifting/ transportation also, in addition to compensation for loss of trees or crops,” the statement said. Additionally, for restoration of livelihood, one member of each affected family would be trained in relevant skills. Monthly subsistence allowances will also be given to the affected wage earner, workers and employees for one year, the statement said.