Bul­let train: Pal­ghar farm­ers protest even as Ja­pan team hears out is­sues

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES CITY -

Mum­bai: For yet an­other time, lo­cals of Saphale vil­lage in Pal­ghar chased away land sur­vey­ors of Mum­bai-Ahmed­abad high-speed rail cor­ri­dor on Fri­day even as a del­e­ga­tion of trib­als and farm­ers from Maharashtra was vis­it­ing Ja­panese In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (JICA) in Gu­jarat on Fri­day. The JICA is soft­fund­ing the bul­let train project.

Two JICA of­fi­cials are vis­it­ing Su­rat and Navsari in Gu­jarat to meet farm­ers who are go­ing to get af­fected by the high-speed rail project. Farm­ers, es­pe­cially those be­long­ing to the Gu­jarat Khe­dut Sa­maj, have filed a se­ries of writ pe­ti­tions in the Gu­jarat high court, op­pos­ing the gov­ern­ment’s move to take over their land for the high-speed train.

On Fri­day, when the Maharashtra del­e­ga­tion of farm­ers, un­der the ban­ner of Adi­vasi Ekta Par­ishad, were meet the of­fi­cials in Navsari, news trick­led in that a team of land sur­vey­ors had landed in Saphale. The vil­lagers stood in protest and re­fused to al­low the land sur­vey.

Sameer Var­tak, who is as­so­ci­ated with the par­ishad, said that the del­e­ga­tion ex­plained to the JICA of­fi­cials how their land was be­ing taken away with­out their con­sent.

JICA has pro­vided a soft loan of Rs 1.10 lakh crore at an in­ter­est rate of 0.1% for the train. The Gu­jarat farm­ers have ar­gued that the Land Ac­qui­si­tion Act, 2013, was di­luted af­ter a project con­tract was signed in Septem­ber 2015. They pointed out that the manda­tory so­cial im­pact as­sess­ment and con­sent of a ma­jor­ity of farm­ers were done away with to forcibly ac­quire the land.

In Pal­ghar dis­trict, trib­als have so far man­aged to keep away land sur­vey­ors. Of the 1,434 hectares land needed for the 508km Mum­bai-Ahmed­abad high speed rail cor­ri­dor, 353 hectares are in Maharashtra. The dead­line for com­plet­ing land ac­qui­si­tion is De­cem­ber this year.

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