Palghar farmers want to meet Japanese company to oppose Bullet Train


Mumbai : In a surprise move, farmers in Palghar district near Thane who stand to lose their land to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project have sought meetings with officials from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to present their case.

The high-speed train, with a capacity for 750 passengers, will travel at speeds between 320 km per hour and 350 kmph and is expected to reduce travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai to three-and-a-half hours or less from the current eight hours. The project is expected to be completed in seven years. However, protests from tribal people and farmers have halted geotechnical investigations, hydrological surveys and utility mapping procedures.

The government is seeking to acquire 1,400 hectares of land in Gujarat and Maharashtra for the project. An estimated 312 villages in Gujarat and Maharashtra will have to give up land for the Rs 1.08 lakh-crore project. Additionally, 7,974 plots belonging to the forest department and railways will have to be acquired in the two States. Modi, at a meeting with the Maharashtra Chief Secretary on August 25, set a deadline of December 2018 for completing the land survey and acquisition. However, the report of the District Collector now puts the onus on the NHSRCL to prepare a time-bound schedule if the deadline is to be met.

The All India Kisan Sabha that is working among farmers in Palghar area, alleged that the Maharashtra Government has been violating several provisions made by JICA as part of its terms and conditions to fund the bullet train project.

Land belonging to the adivasis is being acquired without adequate resettlement programmes, says one of the activists of the Kisan Sabha. Farmers’ groups in both Gujarat and Maharashtra had written to JICA on September this year opposing acquisition of land on the grounds that they had not given their consent in writing. Officials of JICA are to now schedule to visit the affected farmers in Gujarat. Farmers in Palghar are demanding that they also be heard by JICA officials.

Meanwhile, Japan’s ambassador to India, Kenji Hiramatsu, said he hoped that the Indian government would find a way to ensure that the issues plaguing the bullet train project between India and Japan is resolved amicably and speedily. The statement comes against the backdrop of delays in acquiring land slowing down the flagship project.