Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train: Palghar farmers want land, not bullet train

Farmers from Maharashtra's Palghar district are among thousands who have joined the 'Kisan March' in Delhi, aiming to voice their opposition to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project

Among the thousands of farmers who descended in Delhi from across the country, on November 29, 2018, for the ‘Kisan March’ on agrarian crises, were also people from Maharashtra’s Palghar town who wanted to save their land, which is likely to be acquired for the bullet train project.

Around 150 people, including women, under the banner of All India Kisan Sabha from Palghar, which has a population of around 30 lakhs, have pitched tents at the Ramlila Ground in New Delhi, for the Kisan March.

Prime minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe had, on September 14, 2017, launched the Rs 1.10 lakh crore Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail Network. The train, expected to cover the distance of over 500 kms between the two cities in less than three hours, is scheduled to run by August 15, 2022, to mark India’s 75th year of independence.

Kakde Thapar, 45, from the same taluka, said the bullet train is planned to go past her Komgaon village and if that happens, her two acre land would also be gone. Thapar, who has eight children, said her family of 10 lives off the rice and the vegetables that her husband grows in their land. The family consumes most of it and the remaining is sold in the village, she said. “What will I do with the money? Where would I go with it? If we are left with our land, we may do something with it. The money would perish soon,” she said.

A retired plumber, HD Karbad, is apprehensive of the government keeping its promise on the compensation to locals, who would lose land. “They are assuring jobs and monetary compensation but I doubt. Even tribals will lose their land,” said the 62-year-old Karbad, from Dhamangaon. Asked why she is resisting giving up her land, when the government is offering compensation, Mangli Laxmankom, 40, said people in her Kompada village in Wada taluka do not want the money and neither are they willing to give up their land. “Officials looking after the bullet train project have come to our village but people are reluctant,” she claimed.

See also: Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train land acquisition to be over by December 2018: Railway minister

Several of these people had also participated in the mega farmers’ rally in Mumbai, in March 2018, over their demands of a complete waiver on farm loans and fair prices for their produce, among others. “They had promised to fulfil the demands in three months but that has not happened,” said Chandrakant Raghu Gorkhana, 43, from Dahanu taluka of Palghar town. “Farmers from various parts of the country have come together. I think, this would at least make the government consider our case,” he said. Gorkhana claimed that when the Surya dam was constructed in the Dahanu taluka of Palghar town, several locals had to be rehabilitated but that has not happened so far. “When that has not happened, how are they going to rehabilitate us?” Gorkhana, who rents power generators and supplies labourers locally for a living, asked.

In the Marathi crowd, there was also 79-year-old Sundar Narayan Rusi from Gholwad village. “She has come to support us. Cold does not matter to her, she cares more about our issues,” one of the women chirped. Hoping to make themselves heard in the power centre of the nation, thousands of farmers from across the country converged for a two-day protest, to press for their demands, including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce. The farmers have come from different corners of the country, including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.