As many as 1,000 farmers affected by the proposed Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train project submitted affidavits before Gujarat High Court on Tuesday, raising objections to it, and negating the Gujarat government’s claim that most farmers in the state are ready to give up their land for the project. A Division Bench of the High Court, comprising Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi, is hearing five petitions challenging the land acquisition process for the high-profile project.
In its affidavit against the petitions, the Gujarat government has stated that “much larger proportion of landowners whose lands are proposed to be acquired (for the Bullet Train project), have offered their lands by consent.”
Appearing for the petitioners, advocate Anand Yagnik said, “The Gujarat government is presenting a case before the court that many farmers are ready to give up their land with consent, which is incorrect. And to negate its claim, today, 1,000 farmers who are going to be affected by the project have submitted their affidavits while opposing acquisition of their land for the project.”
In the affidavits, the farmers have stated that their land parcels are being acquired without their consent and without any rehabilitation or resettlement package. They said that the acquisition is being done by the Gujarat government by amending a central law that has done away with the mandatory provisions of conducting social impact assessment and consent of the affected families.
They have also stated that the acquisition process is being done completely in violation of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is the major sponsor of the project.
Meanwhile, the High Court bench has asked the Central government to submit its affidavit in reply to the farmers’ petitions by September 26 with a rider that if it is not done then it would admit the petition and may give interim relief to the petitioners.
Yagnik said, “Last month, Supreme Court had asked the HC to expeditiously conduct hearing of the petitions. Despite that, till date, the central government has not filed its affidavit before the court for the past five weeks. They only keep saying that the matter is being considered at the highest level. So, we told the court that this was nothing, but an attempt to frustrate our petitions since the state government is going ahead with its land acquisition process and everyday land acquisition officials enter fields of the farmers against their wish resulting in confrontation.”
“So today, the court has expressed its annoyance and asked the central government to file its affidavit by September 26 or else, it will admit the petition and may grant interim relief in favour of the petitioners, Yagnik added. Yagnik said that five petitioner farmers would approach the Supreme Court on Wednesday to get the project stayed since the High Court has not been able to hear the petitions since the central government has not been filing its reply despite an order from the apex court itself.
The Bullet Train project was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in September last year. The bullet train will run at a speed of 320-350 kmph, and have 12 stations across its 500 km stretch. For the project, around 1,400 hectares of land will be acquired in Gujarat and Maharashtra, 1,120 hectares of which is privately owned. Around 6,000 land owners will have to be compensated.
Meanwhile, the farmers on Tuesday also sent a representation each to the Government of Japan through its Ambassador in India and to the authorities of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to point out that the JICA guidelines are not being followed by the Gujarat government in acquiring land for the project. “Today, 1,000 farmers have written to the Government of Japan and to the authorities of the JICA to apprise them of the non-implementation of JICA guidelines in the project.”