Bullet Train: Gujarat acquires 571 of 714 hectares required for the project

The Gujarat government has said that it has acquired 571 of 714 hectares of land required for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project

Of the 714 hectares of land required for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, the Gujarat government has already acquired 571 hectares, the state’s revenue minister Kaushik Patel said, on February 7, 2020. “Joint management survey for acquisition of land has been completed in 188 of 197 villages. Acquisition contracts have been signed, with approval of farmers, for 2,735 out of a total of 3213 plots,” Patel added. Patel, who was speaking after meeting collectors in Gandhinagar, said farmers had been paid Rs 2,100 crores as compensation for the land.


6 more routes identified for high-speed corridors: Railways

The Railways has said that it has identified six more sections, in addition to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route, for high-speed and semi-high-speed corridors

January 30, 2020: The Railways has identified six sections for high-speed and semi-high-speed corridors, Railway Board chairman VK Yadav said, on January 29, 2020, adding that a detailed project report on these sections would be ready within a year. The new corridors will join the under-construction Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed route.

See also: Maharashtra government orders review of two Metro routes in Thane

Yadav said the six corridors include the Delhi-Noida-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi (865 kms) and the Delhi-Jaipur-Udaipur-Ahmedabad (886 kms) sections. The other corridors are: Mumbai-Nashik-Nagpur (753 kms), Mumbai-Pune-Hyderabad (711 kms), Chennai-Bengaluru-Mysore (435 kms) and Delhi-Chandigarh-Ludhiana-Jalandhar-Amritsar (459 kms).

“The DPR will study the feasibility of these routes which includes land availability, alignment and a study of the traffic potential there. After these things are studied, we will decide if they will be high-speed or semi-high speed corridors,” said Yadav. Trains can run at a maximum speed of over 300 kms/hr on a high-speed corridor, while on a semi-high-speed corridor, the maximum speed can go beyond 160 kms/hr.


Bullet Train: SC agrees to hear pleas against land acquisition

The SC has agreed to examine a batch of pleas filed by farmers against the Gujarat High Court verdict which had dismissed their petitions challenging the land acquisition for the Bullet Train project

January 20, 2020: A Supreme Court bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, on January 17, 2020, issued notices to the centre, the Gujarat government and others, on a batch of appeals challenging the September 19, 2019, verdict of the Gujarat High Court, which dismissed petitions against the land acquisition for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train project. As an interim relief, the plea sought to restrain the Gujarat government from proceeding with the process of land acquisition for the project.

In one of the appeals filed in the apex court, the petitioner said that the high court had upheld the validity of the 2016 state amendment brought by the Gujarat government into The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. It said acquisition of land ‘has to be done for the purpose of Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail project, which is being executed and implemented by the National High Speed Railway Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL), a special purpose vehicle incorporated under the Companies Act 2013’ and as per the provision of the 2013 Act, the centre is the ‘appropriate government’ for this.

It said that the process of land acquisition could only be triggered on the request made by NHSRCL and although there was a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Gujarat government and NHSRCL, there was no request or requisition by the corporation which had been placed on record. “As such the central government being the appropriate government, except that a document is issued post-facto, there cannot be any request or requisition by NHSRCL requisitioning the land to government of Gujarat. Therefore, the initiation of proceedings for the acquisition of land for the bullet train project at the very outset is void,” the plea said.


Bullet Train: Gujarat farmers to file special leave petitions in SC against land acquisition

Farmers opposing the bullet train project in Gujarat, will file special leave petitions in the Supreme Court, challenging the land acquisition process for the project

December 16, 2019: Farmers opposing the bullet train project in Gujarat, will file ‘special leave petitions’ (SLPs) in the Supreme Court, on December 16, 2019, challenging the high court’s September 2019 order, dismissing their pleas against the process to acquire land. As many as 50 SLPs will be filed in the top court, representing more than 2,500 affected farmers from 192 villages across eight districts where land is being acquired for the project, lawyer Anand Yagnik said.

The Gujarat HC, on September 19, 2019, dismissed over 120 petitions filed by farmers, challenging the process to acquire their land under the state’s amended Land Acquisition Act for the ambitious Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train project. However, in a partial relief to the petitioners, a division bench of justices AS Dave and Biren Vaishnav had said the issue of higher compensation was still ‘open’ and that farmers could approach the authorities concerned, to seek more money against their land.


Maharashtra government to review Bullet Train project: Uddhav Thackeray

Newly sworn-in chief minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, has said that his government will review the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project

December 2, 2019: Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has said that he has ordered a review of all ongoing development projects in the state, including the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train. “This government is of the common man. Like you asked now, yes, we will review the bullet train (project). Have I stayed the bullet train project like Aarey car shed? No, I haven’t,” he said, on December 1, 2019.

Earlier, on November 27, 2019, Shiv Sena leader Deepak Kesarkar, a minister in the previous BJP-Sena government, questioned the need for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project. Kesarkar said, “If you have to spend Rs 3,500 (estimated cost of the Bullet train ticket) for a journey from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, (then) there is an option of flight. It was okay, when Gujarat and Maharashtra were one state and Mumbai was the capital. You needed that connectivity. I can’t say if this is needed in present times. We are not opposing anything but our first priority is farmers,” he said. The Sena, NCP and the Congress formed the Maha Vikas Aghadi to form a government in Maharashtra, after the Uddhav Thackeray-led party fell out with its ally BJP.


Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train: HC dismisses over 120 pleas against land acquisition

The Gujarat High Court has dismissed over 120 petitions filed by farmers, challenging the acquisition of their land for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project

September 19, 2019: A division bench of the Gujarat High Court, led by justice AS Dave, on September 19, 2019, held that the compensation offered to farmers by the state government, for the land acquisition for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project, was fair. Consequently, the HC dismissed over 120 petitions filed by farmers against the land acquisition. The bench, however, said the aggrieved farmers can approach the government, to seek higher compensation.

The bench upheld the validity of the Land Acquisition Act, amended by the Gujarat government in 2016 and subsequently approved by the president. The court was also of the opinion that the provision of not conducting social impact assessment under the amended Act, does not fall into the category of ‘excessive delegation’, as contended by the agitating farmers.


Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train fare to be around Rs 3,000

The National High Speed Rail Corporation officials have said that the train will make 70 trips a day, 35 each side

September 13, 2019: The fare for the Mumbai- Ahmedabad bullet train would be around Rs 3,000, an official of the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL) said on September 12, 2019.

Of the total 1,380 hectares of land required for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor, commonly known as the bullet train project, so far 622 hectares of land, which comes to around 45 per cent, has been acquired, the official said.

“Our land requirement for this entire project is 1,380 hectares, which includes private, government, forest and railway land (in Gujarat and Maharashtra). So far, we have acquired 622 hectares (45 per cent). We are moving ahead keeping in mind the deadline of December 2023,” Achal Khare, Managing Director of the NHSRCL, which is executing the
project said. 

“Upon completion, the bullet train will make 70 trips, 35 on each side between 6 am till 12 am. The ticket fare would be around Rs 3,000,” he said.
According to him, tenders had been issued for four major civil work packages on the route and the construction work is likely to begin by March 2020. These packages include construction of a 237-km long viaduct between Vapi and Vadodara and another package between Vadodara and Ahmedabad with a distance of 87 kms, he said.

“We have divided the project into 27 packages. We have already issued tenders for four major civil work packages, including the under-sea tunnel in Maharashtra. We hope that the work would start by March or April next year when the works will be awarded to the agencies,” said Khare.

The present estimates suggest that the cost of the entire project would be Rs 1.08 lakh crore and attempts are being made to finish the project by December 2023, Khare said. Commenting on the resentment among some farmers against land acquisition for the project, he said that farmers are not against giving their land.


NHSRCL floats tender for elevated station at Anand

The National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL) has floated a tender, the third in 2019, for the ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project, with bids invited for a maintenance depot and an elevated station in Anand, in Gujarat. With the latest tender, the corporation has invited bids for the construction of about 69% (348 kms) of the 508-km project, which is likely to be launched in 2023.

See also: Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop project gets infrastructure status

Part of the project are 21 kms of tunnels, five elevated stations and one depot at Surat. NHSRCL’s latest bid, is for design and construction of civil and building works, which will include testing and commissioning of 90 kms of viaducts and bridges, a maintenance depot and an elevated station between Vadodara and Ahmedabad. Vendors have been given four months to bid for the project, while 1,370 days have been given to them to complete the work. More than 66% land required for the above mentioned tender, have been acquired.

Earlier this year, bids were invited for a viaduct between Zaroli village on the Maharashtra-Gujarat border and Vadodara in Gujarat. It also included 24 river crossings and 30 road and canal crossings and four stations – Vapi, Bilimora, Surat and Bharuch. The other tender for this year, was for the underground tunnel of about 21 kms, including seven kms of an undersea tunnel in Maharashtra.


Government conducting study, to ascertain feasibility of bullet train networks in other cities

The centre has said that it is conducting a detailed study, to assess the feasibility of setting up bullet train networks, on routes like Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Mumbai and other cities

July 29, 2019: The centre is conducting a detailed study, to assess the feasibility of setting up bullet train networks in other parts of the country, minister of state for railways, Suresh Angadi said in the Rajya Sabha, on July 26, 2019. “A detailed study is going on throughout the country. We can examine (to set up a network) once we get the report,” Angadi said, during the Question Hour in the upper house. Once the current project (Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train) is successful, the centre can think of launching it on routes like Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Mumbai and other cities, he said.

See also: 3 new metro lines approved for Mumbai metropolitan region

“Bullet train or High Speed Rail Projects are highly capital and technology intensive, and therefore, their proposals for other sections are subject to technical feasibility, financial and economic viability and availability of funding,” he added. In his written reply, the minister said the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Train Project was being implemented at an estimated cost of Rs 1,08,000 crores, by a special purpose vehicle, National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL), with financial and technical assistance from Japan. The minister said that about Rs 3,226.8 crores expenditure had been incurred up to June 2019 on this project. Responding to supplementaries, Angadi said the current high speed project was viable, as an average 36,000 people will travel and the minimum fare is expected to be Rs 3,000.


Bullet Train: Design of station at Thane reworked, to reduce the number of mangroves affected

The design of the Bullet Train station at Thane has been reworked, to reduce the number of mangroves that will be affected, from estimated 53,000 to 32,044, the NHSRCL has said

July 1, 2019: The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHRSCL), the implementing agency of the Railways’ Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project, on June 29, 2019, said that they have reworked the design of the station in Thane, Maharashtra, to reduce the number of affected mangroves from the estimated 53,000 to 32,044. NHRSCL MD Achal Khare, in a statement, said that all the required wildlife, forest and CRZ clearance had been taken. He said the forest clearance came with a few conditions. The Environment Ministry had put a condition that the Thane station design be reviewed, so that the affected mangrove region could be reduced.

See also: BMC forced to use reserve stock to supply drinking water to Mumbai

“That without changing the location of Thane station, in what all ways can we reduce the mangrove region – this is what we discussed with Japanese engineers and modified it accordingly,” Khare said. “Passenger areas like the parking area and passenger handling area, have now been moved out of the mangrove region. The location of the station is the same but after redesigning it, earlier 12 hectares of mangrove region was getting affected in Thane but now only three hectares will get affected. So, this way, we have reduced around 21,000 mangroves and now only 32,044 mangroves will get affected from the entire project. Earlier, there were around 53,000 mangroves getting affected,” he said.

Khare further said that the NHSRCL will get the mangroves affected by the Bullet Train project compensated at the rate of 1:5, by depositing money into the ‘mangroves cell’, which will do the compensatory afforestation. “So, the number of mangroves which are getting cut is 32,044. Then, around 1,60,000 new mangroves will be planted and the entire financial expense will be borne by NHSRCL. New mangroves will be planted through mangrove cells,” he added.


Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project to affect 54,000 mangroves on 13 hectares

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project will affect as many as 54,000 mangroves, Maharashtra’s transport minister said, while adding that the project will not damage the environment much

June 24, 2019: As many as 54,000 mangroves, spread over 13.36 hectares, will be affected by the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail corridor, commonly called the Bullet Train project, Maharashtra transport minister Diwakar Raote said, on June 24, 2019. He was replying to a question raised by Shiv Sena legislator Maneesha Kayande in the state’s legislative council.

“There will be no chopping of trees and there will be no threat of flooding to some parts of Navi Mumbai. The pillars (of the project) will be high and hence will not damage the environment much,” he added. Raote said the state government has proposed to plant five plants, for each one that will be cut for the multi-billion dollar project.

See also: Maharashtra legislature approves expansion of MMRDA into Raigad, Palghar

“As per my information, farmers are keen on handing over their land for appropriate remuneration,” Raote informed, in his written reply. Replying to another question raised by Congress MLC Sharad Ranpise, Raote said, “The proposed land acquisition for the bullet train project is 1,379 hectares, of which 724.13 hectares is private land in Gujarat while 270.65 hectares is in Maharashtra. As many as 188 hectares of private land in Palghar district is going to be acquired, of which 2.95 hectares has been purchased as per the ‘private negotiation’ policy of the state government. As many as 3,498 people from Palghar will be affected due to the bullet train project,” Raote added.

“In Thane district, 84.81 hectares, belonging to 6,589 farmers, has been acquired, of which 2.95 hectares has been purchased as per the private negotiation policy,” he said. Private negotiation is a policy introduced by the state government some years back, where it buys out land directly from the owner instead of following the land acquisition procedure which normally takes more time.


Bullet train: HC seeks expert opinion, for cutting mangroves

The Bombay HC has said that it wants to first hear the arguments of environmental experts, before giving a go-ahead for the cutting of mangroves, in Thane, Navi Mumbai and Palghar, for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project

June 13, 2019: A Bombay High Court division bench of chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice NM Jamdar, on June 12, 2019, said it will have to hear environmental experts, before deciding on a plea seeking hacking of mangroves to pave way for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. The bench was hearing an application filed by the National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL), seeking permission to cut mangroves, spread over 13 hectares of area.

See also: Mumbai Coastal Road necessary, compensation to be given to fishermen: MCGM tells HC

In March 2019, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority had told the court that it had given its nod for cutting over 53,000 mangrove trees for the project. In April 2019, the NHSRCL informed the court that it had received the approval of the expert appraisal committee of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, for removal of mangroves in Thane, Navi Mumbai and Palghar districts.

However, the bench noted that before granting its nod, it will have to first hear arguments of the environmental experts. “If permissions are granted like this for every public project, then what will be the impact on the environment?” chief justice Nandrajog said. The bench directed for NGO Bombay Environment Action Group, to be made a party respondent in the matter and posted it for hearing in August 2019.

Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train: NCP calls for scrapping of project after Mumbai bridge collapse

The NCP has demanded that the multi-billion dollar Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project be scrapped, after a foot overbridge connected to the iconic CSMT station collapsed, killing six persons and injuring 31

March 18, 2019: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Jitendra Awhad,said that the money being spent on the high-speed Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, a joint venture between India and Japan, should be invested to upgrade suburban railway facilities in the metropolis and its surrounding areas. The demand came, after a portion of a foot overbridge, connected to the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) in south Mumbai collapsed, March 14, 2019, killing six persons and injuring 31.

Awhad said scrapping the bullet train project would be part of the NCP’s manifesto and claimed it would be called off, within one month of the party attaining power. “The prime concern of the government should be improvement of railway facilities. A blame-game by authorities is not the solution. We demand that the bullet train project be cancelled, since it is merely a show-off project and a waste of tax-payers’ money,” he claimed. “We will also include this point in our manifesto. Within one month of coming to power, we will scrap the bullet train project and use the money for suburban rail and its connecting services,” Awhad added.

See also: 6 dead, 31 injured, as foot overbridge collapses in Mumbai

“Specialised audit and immediate maintenance is required of dilapidated bridges, several 50-70 years old, over railway tracks in Mumbai and suburban areas,” he said against the backdrop of the bridge collapse. He claimed over 200 railway-related accidents occur daily, which either cause loss of lives or injuries to commuters.

Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said an audit of the bridge, done a year ago, had recommended minor repairs but money for it was never sanctioned. “This is a BMC-made disaster. Seeing the debris, the corrosion was clearly visible. The BMC is responsible for the loss of lives in this bridge collapse,” Sawant alleged.

Indian Railwaymen Federation opposes bullet train project, dubs it as ‘wasteful’

The National Federation of Indian Railwaymen has opposed the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, saying that instead of focusing on this ‘wasteful’ project, the government should strengthen the existing rail network in the country

February 19, 2019: Talking to reporters in Vadodara, the general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) M Raghavaih, on February 15, 2019, alleged that the bullet train was a dream project of prime minister Narendra Modi, who has not thought about its economic viability.

“The Rs 1.08-lakh-crore bullet train project is wasteful. Since India is not a developed country, it does not need this project. The country can think about it after 2040, when it becomes a developed nation,” he said. “The government should prioritise work on the existing train routes, instead of focusing on the bullet train project. Before the bullet train starts running, it is important to undertake repairs and maintenance work of the tracks across the country,” Raghavaih said.

See also: Mumbai monorail: Jacob Circle-Wadala stretch likely to be opened on March 1, 2019

The project had little or no justification, on the grounds of economic viability or public service, he said, adding that only a handful of high-income countries with specific demographics have high-speed rail (HSR), while many have failed in their efforts, others have abandoned it after studying it. “Bullet train is a dream project of PM Modi, who has not thought about its economic viability. Ever since he became the PM, he has been trying to protect the interests of private companies,” he alleged. Another NFIR office-bearer, JG Mahurkar, warned that railway employees may launch an agitation over the NDA government’s ‘failure’ to accept their demands, including that of risk and hardship allowance to employees.

Bullet train project: Farmers hold protest in Gujarat, demanding better compensation

Around 800 farmers have held a protest against the land acquisition for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, at Navsari in Gujarat, demanding compensation as per the market value of the land and not the official rate fixed by the government

February 7, 2019: Around 800 farmers, affected by the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, held a protest march on February 6, 2019, at Navsari in Gujarat, demanding better compensation for their land. The Gujarat High Court is expected to pronounce its judgment, on petitions filed by farmers challenging the land acquisition process for the high-speed rail project, on February 7, 2019.

The march at Navsari, 280 kms from Ahmedabad, was organised by the Gujarat Khedut Samaj, which has been opposing the ambitious project, launched by prime minister Narendra Modi in 2017.

“We will give our lives, not our land” read banners at the rally, which saw a high number of women participants. Farmer leader Jayesh Patel said they wanted compensation, as per the market value of the land and not the ‘Jantri’ (official) rate fixed by the government. “Land in southern districts of Gujarat is very fertile. Mangoes and other fruits grown in orchards of Navsari, are exported across the country. Thousands of farmers and their families are dependent on the land,” Patel said.

See also: Budget 2019: Rs 584 crores allocated to Mumbai Urban Transport Project

The proposed compensation – an amount four times the Jantri rate – is too low, he said. “As per the Jantri rates, the value of one bigha of land is around Rs four to five lakhs. However, the actual market value is around Rs 40 to 50 lakhs. The compensation must be based on the market price,” he said.

A woman participant at the march echoed his sentiments: “What would our next generation do, once our fertile land is gone? If at all the government wants to take it, we must be paid four times the market value as compensation,” she said.


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

November 30, 2018: 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.

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