The ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train Project was supposed to complete the acquisition of 1,380 hectares of land for the 508 km long project by December 2018. However, it couldn’t manage to acquire even a single hectare of land last year.
The deadline has been extended to December 2019 and the National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), the company overlooking the project in association with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has successfully managed to acquire 39 percent of the total 1,380 hectares of land.
In December 2018, a three-member team from JICA, headed by Katsuo Matsumoto, Chief Representative of JICA India, visited the project-affected farmers in Gujarat to understand the various issues pertaining to land acquisition and compensation.
JICA tabled its report before the NHSRCL but the report is not available in the public domain. The NGO Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), which is representing the project-affected persons (PAP), wrote to NHSRCL, requesting the latter to share the report with them.
Instead of sharing the report, NHSRCL in a letter addressing PSS, mentioned the two red flags raised by JICA.
JICA recommended that NHSRCL should not compensate project-affected farmers based on the 2011 Jantri Rates (ready-reckoner rates) which is quite low. JICA also recommended NHSRCL to compensate the project-affected farmers through comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation packages.
The Quint tried reaching out to the NHSRCL spokesperson in New Delhi over the phone for a comment but could not get a response.
NHSRCL Highlights Two Red Flags Raised by JICA
The Quint spoke with Krishnakant, who is a member of the PSS, and met with the JICA team in south Gujarat in December 2018.
“The JICA team told us that they will submit a report to NHSRCL and suggest them to take actions against based on their recommendations. We simply requested that the report should be shared with us, so that we can be apprised about the recommendations made by JICA.”Krishnakant, Pariyavaran Suraksha Samiti
“We wrote to NHSRCL on 10 June and they responded to us on 24 June wherein they highlighted two issues flagged by JICA. But they refused to share the detailed report stating that we should approach JICA with our request,” Krishnakant added
According to the letter sent by the NHSRCL to PSS, JICA had flagged two issues before the rail authority. JICA recommended that NHSRCL should not pay the project-affected farmers based on the 2011 Jantri Rates (ready-reckoner rates).
The NHSRCL added their response to JICA, stating that the Jantri Rates in Gujarat have been raised by 52.17 percent by adopting the method of indexation as per the Income Tax Department.
JICA also recommended compensation to project-affected farmers through comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation packages instead of just offering them monetary compensation. NHSRCL stated that along with monetary compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement assistance will be provided as per Schedule II of ‘The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.’
Progress of the Project
So far, 537 hectares of land have been acquired, which include 471 of 940 hectares in Gujarat and 66 of 431 hectares in Maharashtra. However, NHSRCL failed to acquire the nine hectares required in Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
NHSRCL Spokesperson Sushma Gaur told IANS that the land will be taken over once the tenders for the project are finalised.
“Major chunk of the land acquisition is likely to be completed by December 2019. Two or three months back the total land acquired was 33 percent. And within 90 days we were able to acquire over 6 percent more land,” she said.
However, according to Krishnakant, most of the land which has been acquired belongs to the government.
“Land has been acquired in Valsad and Surat and they (NHSRCL) have also acquired huge swathes of land in Ahmedabad and Kheda districts. A major part of the land acquired in Ahmedabad belongs to the government. In other parts, issues related to compensation continue to be raised before the special land acquisition officer and the acquisition process continues to lag.”Krishnakant, Pariyavaran Suraksha Samiti
“The farmers had filed a litigation before the Gujarat High Court last year, challenging the whole land acquisition process. If the court favours the farmers, then the acquisition process will be restarted again. The land that has been already acquired won’t be affected though, if the court rules in our favour,” he added.