Gujarat farmers protest against bullet train land acquisition process

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VADODARA: A group of farmers on Monday protested against the consultation meet organised in Vadodara for acquisition of land for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high speed rail project, alleging that it was called at a “very short notice”.
The National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC), the special purpose vehicle executing the bullet train project, had informed affected farmers regarding Monday’s meeting by publishing a notice in newspapers on Sunday.
The notice stated that a “second stakeholder consultation” meeting will be held to facilitate the process of land acquisition, but farmers objected to it, claiming that there was, infact, no first stakeholder meeting itself.
Protesting farmers, who arrived at the venue of the consultation meeting at Mahatma Gandhi Nagar Gruh, a town hall, demanded that NHSRC officials share with them details of the first round of the meeting.
“The agenda and purpose of the meeting, which officials are calling the second round, is not clear. It was called at a very short notice and nobody knows when the first meeting was held,” said Krishna Kant, a farmers’ representative.
Calling it a rushed affair, he said that since notice for the meeting was published a day earlier, it was difficult for a large section of aggrieved farmers to reach the venue.
A memorandum submitted to the district collectors of Vadodara and Bharuch by protesting farmers said the intent of the notice was to “merely dispense with a formality” rather than informing affected farmers.
Dwaipayan Dutta, a consultant representing the NHSRC, said that despite farmers complaining that they were not intimated in advance, 60-70 farmers did turn up for the meeting.
He alleged that some “opposition party” members tried to disrupt the meeting.
“We have begun district-wise consultation meetings for farmers whose land will have to be acquired. We will have taluka-level meetings after this. The exercise is to determine the compensation that farmers will have to be paid for their land,” Dutta said.
He informed that 800 hectare of land will be acquired from 5,000 families in the state, with Vadodara accounting for 747 families and 163 hectare of land.
The project was launched last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe and it is expected to be ready for commissioning by 2022.
Japan has extended a soft loan for the project which is a joint venture between the Indian Railways and that country’s Shinkansen (literally meaning new trunk line) technology that runs its high speed trains.