Ahmedabad, Sep 19: Nearly 1,000 farmers from Gujarat have filed affidavits in the Gujarat High Court, opposing the land acquisition process started by the State government for the ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train project. These farmers, who have been affected as their lands will be acquired, have voiced their opposition to the Center’s 1.10 lakh crore project and said they will demand a stay on the project from the Apex Court. A division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi is hearing five petitions challenging the land acquisition process for the high-speed rail project.
For the much-awaited project, around 1,400 hectares of land will be acquired in Gujarat and Maharashtra, 1,120 hectares of which is privately owned. Around 6,000 landowners will have to be compensated, a report by PTI said. The farmers alleged that the Gujarat government diluted the Land Acquisition Act 2013 after Japan entered into a contract with India for the bullet train in September 2015. India to Purchase 18 Bullet Trains From Japan for Rs 7,000 Crore
Expressing anguish, the farmers said that the state amendment itself violates JICA guidelines and that neither their consent was taken, nor any consultations were done with them while initiating the land acquisition. The farmers told the court that the social impact assessment for rehabilitation and resettlement is also not being discussed by the government and that the agencies have undertaken unknown proceedings.
According to the affidavit, the affected farmers from various districts of Gujarat, from where the bullet train route will pass, stated that they do not want acquisition of their land for the project. They further added saying that the existing land acquisition proceedings are contrary to guidelines of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that has provided soft loan to the Indian government for the project.
During the hearing, the central government sought more time to file a reply. Notably, the Supreme Court had directed the high court on August 10 to expeditiously hear matters of the bullet train-affected farmers. In their petitions filed in July, the five farmers, all from Surat district, said since the project extends to more than one state (Gujarat and Maharashtra), the Centre is the "appropriate government" to acquire the land for it.
According to a report by PTI, another contention of the petitioners is that the market value of the land was not revised, as required under Section 26 of the Land Acquisition Act. The petitioners have also challenged the Gujarat Amendment Act 2016 which tweaked the 2013 law.
The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing a total soft loan of Rs 88,000 crore to India for the ambitious project. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in September 2017. Under the ambitious project, the bullet train is believed to run at a speed of 320-350 kmph, and have 12 stations across its 500 km stretch.