Bullet Train Project Likely to Miss Deadline, Protests by Mango and Sapota Farmers Cause of Delay
Farmers under the aegis of All India Kisan Sabha have threatened an indefinite hunger strike if their land is forcibly acquired for the bullet train project | File Image | (Photo Credits: PTI)

Mumbai, June 12: The Rs 1.08 trillion bullet train project, which will connect Ahmedabad to Mumbai, has been stuck in logjam due to massive protests by mango and sapota farmers in Palghar region.

Two officials of the Indian Railways, while speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity, said the project is already facing cash crunch as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will delay the disbursal of soft loans due to the failure to acquire lands so far.

The JICA has appealed the Indian government to take into account the apprehensions raised by the local protesters and offer them an adequate compensation in lieu of acquiring their lands. The details of the rehabilitation programme must be made public in order to enter into the loan agreement, a JICO spokeswoman was reported as saying by HT.

“It is possible that it takes time to sign a contract as India takes proper and careful measures in line with JICA’s guidelines for environmental and social considerations,” she said. 81 percent of the project's cost are to be borne by Japan.

The deadline for completing the bullet train project was fixed as August 15, 2023. But the National High Speed Rail Corp Ltd, the nodal agency for implementing the project, has been tasked by Prime Minister Narendra to conclude the project by August 15, 2022 -- which marks the 75th anniversary of India's independence.

Ashwani Lohani, Chairman of the Indian Railway Board, said the protesting farmers could be placated. "The issues raised by farmers are not insurmountable," he said.

The farmers, however, have threatened to go on a hunger strike if the government remains firm on acquiring their land for the bullet train project. While the Centre has offered to procure their land at 25 per cent above the prevailing market rate, the farmers have called it inadequate.

For past 30 years, I have toiled on this land, made it fertile and cultivated mangoes. I have poured my blood and soil in this land. "The government cannot rid me and my children from this," said Palghar-based farmer Dushyant Patil, who is also associated with the All India Kisan Sabha.