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Modi’s Bullet Train Battles Legal Hurdles Over Farmers’ Protests

The deadline to complete land acquisition is December 2018. 

Published
Explainers
6 min read
Farmers are protesting against land acquisitions for the bullet train.
i
Snapshot

It was in September last year that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone in Gujarat for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor – the bullet train project.

However, contrary to the expectations, the project is not off to a flying start.

The work on the ground for this Rs 1.08 lakh crore project began in December 2017, but since then much of the development has been hampered by protests against land acquisitions done mostly by farmers and tribal communities in both Maharashtra and Gujarat. In May 2018, around 50,000 farmers from nearly 60 villages protested against the high-speed rail, according to The Hindu.

More recently, the Indian conglomerate Godrej Group protested against the acquisition of their land. Godrej moved the Bombay High Court challenging the proposed acquisition of its land in Mumbai’s eastern suburb of Vikhroli and demanded its realignment, BloombergQuint reported citing a senior official of National High-Speed Rail Corporation, which is the nodal body of the project.

The bullet train is expected to start running in August 2022 and for that to happen the Japanese company has given itself a deadline of December 2018 to complete the land acquisition procedure. But till now, only 0.9 hectares of land has been physically handed over, which lies in the stretch of Bandra-Kurla Complex, said an The Indian Express report.

Modi’s Bullet Train Battles Legal Hurdles Over Farmers’ Protests

  1. 1. What Does the Central vs State Land Acquisition Act Entail?

    The Central Land Acquisition Act, 2013 was a pathbreaking law that did well to address the unfair and unjust treatment meted out to land losers in their dealings with the state.

    The Central Act made it mandatory to have consent of 80 percent of land losers in case of acquisition of land by companies and 70 percent in case of land acquired for public private partnerships projects. Also, the Act introduced procedures for social impact assessment (SIA) to assess both the social and the environmental impact of the project.

    In an ordinance proposed by the NDA government, in 2015, they wanted to exempt the “social infrastructure PPP” projects from the above mandates, but amidst an outcry from the Opposition, the ordinances were allowed to lapse.

    This amounted to nothing as the state governments passed their own land acquisitions acts that included provisions of the lapsed ordinance. This included the governments of Gujarat (2016) and Maharashtra (2017) among other states.

    The Gujarat Land Acquisition Bill 2016 exempted special category of projects which included “public-private partnership for social infrastructure” from requiring a SIA and also diluted the consent clauses of the affected people.

    Since the bullet train falls in the “public interest” category, it meant that it does not require an SIA and neither does it have to worry about consent.

    A new petition was filed in June 2018 in the Gujarat High Court which challenged the state’s land acquisition act, stating that it makes the state all-powerful in the guise of “public interest”, according to The Indian Express. It was moved by a Surat-based farmer, who is among the many affected by the project.

    The farmers proclaimed that the appropriate law for the project, which is shared by two states Gujarat and Maharashtra, should not be the State Land Acquisition Law but the Central Land Acquisition Act 2013.

    This is the fifth petition in which the farmers speak out against land acquisition. The earlier four were filed challenging the acquisition of land without modifying the rate of the land according to the Central Land Acquisition Act 2013, reported DNA.

    The high court has asked for the state’s response on the plea.

    Also in June, farmers had protested in huge numbers outside the office of District Collector of Valsad, Gujarat. They had submitted a memorandum stating that their land is being acquired forcefully.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Are the Other Red Flags?

    The high-speed rail corridor is a linear rail project. Which means that the rails have to be laid out in one straight line and free of curves. Anything beyond 300 kmph requires a straight alignment of the rails, reported The Indian Express.

    With the result, there are places where the rail inadvertently splits agricultural land unequally which renders agricultural land useless.

    Activist Krishnakant of Surat-Based Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti told IE, “Farmers are given vague or varying answers when they ask if there will be access from one part to the other. If there is a borewell in one part, will they be able to use that water to irrigate the section on the other side? Will they be permitted to pass under the bridge?”

    The report also cited Ulka Mahajan, who is a land rights activist as saying, “The reports on the NHSRCL website are not in a language affected people can understand. The final detailed project report is not even ready – how can there be meaningful consultations?”

    Expand
  3. 3. How Much Land is Being Acquired for the Project?

    For a 508 km stretch, of which 21 km will be covered in the under-sea tunnel, the Indian railways will need to acquire a total of 1,400 hectares of linear land in Maharashtra and Gujarat, 353 hectares of which lies in Maharashtra while the remaining majority is in Gujarat, according to the English daily.

    Out of the total land, around 1,120 hectares is privately owned.

    The same report said that around 7,000 plots covering around 195 villages in Gujarat and 104 in Maharashtra will be affected by the project. Though it is primarily divided between the districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat, it also covers a small area in Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

    Out of the total estimated cost of the project, Rs 88,000 crore will be a soft loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), that makes up about 80 percent of the total cost, the report added.

    Expand
  4. 4. What Compensation is Being Promised to the Affected Parties?

    An estimated 6,000 farmers are to be compensated and the amount to be given to them will be different depending upon their respective state laws.

    In Maharashtra, the Japanese company has promised to pay four times the circle rate of land and along with that a bonus of 25 percent and a one-time payment of Rs 5 lakh, IE reported.

    For all those who lose a house, she or he can choose to either get a new one built (which will be 500 square feet away) or get financially compensated for it.

    The money that will be given in this case will twice the construction cost of the place at which it is being built.

    For all those who lose their livelihood, they will get Rs 3,600 per month for one year. And the landless agricultural worker will get a one-time Rs 5 lakh and employees of shops on the land to be acquired, will be given a one-time Rs 25,000.

    For forest lands that are lost, 50 percent of the value of the land will be paid to the people displaced and the other 50 percent will be given to the state government.

    The Indian Express report adds that where there are fruit bearing trees being razed to the ground, the farmers will get the amount they would have otherwise got in the years that the tree was expected to live. Apart from that the company has also promised to pay a 12 percent interest on the compensation amount, to be calculated from the date of issuing of the notice.

    Meanwhile, the compensation under Gujarat state laws comes to over four times the prevailing price of land. The company is offering a 25 percent bonus and the same loss of livelihood related promises that it makes in Maharashtra.

    The Gujarat government plans to offer either 4.75 times the existing “Jantri prices” or the average rate within a 1.5 km of the affected area’s radius, whichever turns out to be higher.

    Expand
  5. 5. How is the State and the Japanese Company Responding to Protests?

    We will provide each land loser an entitlement card which will have his bank account number and all the items against which he is going to get compensation. This will be monitored by the company, till the time he gets his last compensation.
    The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited MD, Achal Khare, to The Indian Express

    The NHSRC have also reportedly formed a three-member committee that will have the power to take on-the-spot decisions to address the problems of the farmers there and then and also compensate them financially if need be.

    The company, on the other hand, has decided that wherever the land is split, the compensation given will be case specific. A 50-50 split of land will be compensated differently than the 75-25 split while the land will continue belonging to the owner, the report said, quoting company officials.

    (With inputs from The Indian Express, The Hindu, DNA and BloombergQuint.)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

What Does the Central vs State Land Acquisition Act Entail?

The Central Land Acquisition Act, 2013 was a pathbreaking law that did well to address the unfair and unjust treatment meted out to land losers in their dealings with the state.

The Central Act made it mandatory to have consent of 80 percent of land losers in case of acquisition of land by companies and 70 percent in case of land acquired for public private partnerships projects. Also, the Act introduced procedures for social impact assessment (SIA) to assess both the social and the environmental impact of the project.

In an ordinance proposed by the NDA government, in 2015, they wanted to exempt the “social infrastructure PPP” projects from the above mandates, but amidst an outcry from the Opposition, the ordinances were allowed to lapse.

This amounted to nothing as the state governments passed their own land acquisitions acts that included provisions of the lapsed ordinance. This included the governments of Gujarat (2016) and Maharashtra (2017) among other states.

The Gujarat Land Acquisition Bill 2016 exempted special category of projects which included “public-private partnership for social infrastructure” from requiring a SIA and also diluted the consent clauses of the affected people.

Since the bullet train falls in the “public interest” category, it meant that it does not require an SIA and neither does it have to worry about consent.

A new petition was filed in June 2018 in the Gujarat High Court which challenged the state’s land acquisition act, stating that it makes the state all-powerful in the guise of “public interest”, according to The Indian Express. It was moved by a Surat-based farmer, who is among the many affected by the project.

The farmers proclaimed that the appropriate law for the project, which is shared by two states Gujarat and Maharashtra, should not be the State Land Acquisition Law but the Central Land Acquisition Act 2013.

This is the fifth petition in which the farmers speak out against land acquisition. The earlier four were filed challenging the acquisition of land without modifying the rate of the land according to the Central Land Acquisition Act 2013, reported DNA.

The high court has asked for the state’s response on the plea.

Also in June, farmers had protested in huge numbers outside the office of District Collector of Valsad, Gujarat. They had submitted a memorandum stating that their land is being acquired forcefully.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Are the Other Red Flags?

The high-speed rail corridor is a linear rail project. Which means that the rails have to be laid out in one straight line and free of curves. Anything beyond 300 kmph requires a straight alignment of the rails, reported The Indian Express.

With the result, there are places where the rail inadvertently splits agricultural land unequally which renders agricultural land useless.

Activist Krishnakant of Surat-Based Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti told IE, “Farmers are given vague or varying answers when they ask if there will be access from one part to the other. If there is a borewell in one part, will they be able to use that water to irrigate the section on the other side? Will they be permitted to pass under the bridge?”

The report also cited Ulka Mahajan, who is a land rights activist as saying, “The reports on the NHSRCL website are not in a language affected people can understand. The final detailed project report is not even ready – how can there be meaningful consultations?”

How Much Land is Being Acquired for the Project?

For a 508 km stretch, of which 21 km will be covered in the under-sea tunnel, the Indian railways will need to acquire a total of 1,400 hectares of linear land in Maharashtra and Gujarat, 353 hectares of which lies in Maharashtra while the remaining majority is in Gujarat, according to the English daily.

Out of the total land, around 1,120 hectares is privately owned.

The same report said that around 7,000 plots covering around 195 villages in Gujarat and 104 in Maharashtra will be affected by the project. Though it is primarily divided between the districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat, it also covers a small area in Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

Out of the total estimated cost of the project, Rs 88,000 crore will be a soft loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), that makes up about 80 percent of the total cost, the report added.

ADVERTISEMENT

What Compensation is Being Promised to the Affected Parties?

An estimated 6,000 farmers are to be compensated and the amount to be given to them will be different depending upon their respective state laws.

In Maharashtra, the Japanese company has promised to pay four times the circle rate of land and along with that a bonus of 25 percent and a one-time payment of Rs 5 lakh, IE reported.

For all those who lose a house, she or he can choose to either get a new one built (which will be 500 square feet away) or get financially compensated for it.

The money that will be given in this case will twice the construction cost of the place at which it is being built.

For all those who lose their livelihood, they will get Rs 3,600 per month for one year. And the landless agricultural worker will get a one-time Rs 5 lakh and employees of shops on the land to be acquired, will be given a one-time Rs 25,000.

For forest lands that are lost, 50 percent of the value of the land will be paid to the people displaced and the other 50 percent will be given to the state government.

The Indian Express report adds that where there are fruit bearing trees being razed to the ground, the farmers will get the amount they would have otherwise got in the years that the tree was expected to live. Apart from that the company has also promised to pay a 12 percent interest on the compensation amount, to be calculated from the date of issuing of the notice.

Meanwhile, the compensation under Gujarat state laws comes to over four times the prevailing price of land. The company is offering a 25 percent bonus and the same loss of livelihood related promises that it makes in Maharashtra.

The Gujarat government plans to offer either 4.75 times the existing “Jantri prices” or the average rate within a 1.5 km of the affected area’s radius, whichever turns out to be higher.

How is the State and the Japanese Company Responding to Protests?

We will provide each land loser an entitlement card which will have his bank account number and all the items against which he is going to get compensation. This will be monitored by the company, till the time he gets his last compensation.
The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited MD, Achal Khare, to The Indian Express

The NHSRC have also reportedly formed a three-member committee that will have the power to take on-the-spot decisions to address the problems of the farmers there and then and also compensate them financially if need be.

The company, on the other hand, has decided that wherever the land is split, the compensation given will be case specific. A 50-50 split of land will be compensated differently than the 75-25 split while the land will continue belonging to the owner, the report said, quoting company officials.

(With inputs from The Indian Express, The Hindu, DNA and BloombergQuint.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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