A team from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is funding by the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train venture, concluded its two-day meeting with Gujarat farmers and villagers opposed to land acquisition for the project on 8 December.
Farmers had earlier written to JICA requesting its officials to visit the affected villages to understand the ground reality.
The three-member team, led by JICA's chief representative Katsuo Matsumoto, met hundreds of farmers whose lands will have to be acquired for the project from south Gujarat districts. The team heard the farmers' grievances and legal issues over two days.
The Japanese government's funding agency is providing a soft loan to India for the first high speed train project in the country, which is expected to cost Rs 1.08 lakh crore. JICA officials were not available for comment.
The ambitious bullet train project was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, in September last year. The bullet train will run at a speed of 320-350 kmph and have 12 stations across its 500-km stretch between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Around 1,400 hectares of land will have to be acquired in Gujarat and Maharashtra for the project. Of that 1,120 hectares is privately owned.
Over 500 Farmers Meet JICA Team
On Friday, 7 December, around 400 project-affected persons gathered at Amadpore in Navsari district where they made their representations before the JICA team, said Jayesh Patel of Gujarat Khedut Samaj, a farmers' outfit.
"The second meeting was held at Kathor village in Surat district where more than 150 houses will have to be razed to pave the way for the bullet train. JICA met 200 farmers there. Both meetings lasted well over three hours," he said.
Farmers' leaders said they apprised the team with the ground reality of the land acquisition process and how it ‘flouts’ JICA's guidelines. Several farmers have challenged the state government's land acquisition process in the Gujarat High Court. They claim the process is not in accordance with the law.
“We apprised the representatives of JICA about the various laws and guidelines that are being flouted for the bullet train project. How the Social Impact Assessment or the Environmental Impact Assessment was not carried out by bringing in an amendment to the land acquisition act.”Jayesh Patel, Gujarat Khedut Samaj
JICA to Table Its Report
The team also met representatives of Adivasi Ekta Parishad from Maharashtra. The representatives told the JICA team how rules were being ‘flouted’ for acquiring forest land for the project, Patel said.
According to Jayesh Patel “JICA members told us that a positive consultation report was provided to them by the NHSRCL instead of the actual picture. “
“JICA team before leaving said that they are not the decision making body. Based on our representation, the JICA team will prepare a report on environmental and social aspects of land acquisition, issues of compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement and human rights, for consideration by higher authorities. We may get a copy of the report tabled by JICA.”Jayesh Patel, Gujarat Khedut Samaj
“Villagers who met the JICA team said the government was not taking into account the impact land acquisition will have on their social life,” said lawyer Anand Yagnik, who is representing farmers in the high court.
(With Inputs from PTI)