Gujarat Farmers Move High Court Against Land Acquisition for Bullet Train
‘Our consent was not taken, officials are not responding to our inquiries’
Around 1,000 farmers affected by the proposed Mumbai–Ahmedabad bullet train submitted affidavits in the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday, September 18, raising their opposition to the project.
Some 1,400 hectares of land are proposed to be acquired for the high speed train in Gujarat and Maharashtra, 1,120 hectares which are privately owned.
Advocate Anand Yagnik who is representing the farmers said that their affidavits can be regarded as the voice of farmers from several districts in Gujarat. Their submission quite clearly shows the bullet train will affect thousands of families. He stated that these farmers did not want their land to be acquired for the project.
The farmers told the court that their consent was not taken and consultations with them were not held while initiating the land acquisition. They also said no progress had been made on a social impact assessment for rehabilitation and resettlement, and that no government official was responding to their queries.
A coercive mechanism such as this violates existing land acquisition norms, and the irresponsible behaviour of government officials is contrary to the guidelines given by the Japan International Cooperation Agency which has given a soft loan to the Indian government for the project.
The farmers alleged that the Gujarat government diluted the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, doing away with the social impact assessment and consent clauses governing the acquisition of land for projects claimed to be in the public interest.
A few weeks ago President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling (Amendment) Bill, 2017. These bills amend the Agricultural Land Ceiling Act enacted in 1960, expanding the discretionary power of state governments to determine what land is surplus, and to give it to industrialists.
Yagnik also mentioned that the affected farmers would approach the Supreme Court as the Centre was not filing its reply in the petitions filed in the Gujarat High Court, stalling proceedings.
At present a division bench of the Gujarat High Court including Chief Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice V.M. Pancholi is hearing five petitions that challenge the land acquisition process for the bullet train project.
The Citizen spoke to All India Kisan Sabha Gujarat Secretary Kuber Bhai, who said, “We are standing with farmers and we shall continue to fight until all their demands are achieved.”
The Mumbai–Ahmedabad High Speed Rail is estimated to cost Rs 1 lakh crore. According to a project report by IIM-Ahmedabad tickets would have to be priced at Rs 4,000–5,000 and the train would have to carry a hundred thousand passengers every day for the project to break even.