The ambitious MumbaiAhmedabad bullet train project, which will connect the two cities with a highspeed rail line, has met many hurdles. On April 8, 2018, farmers and activists in Gujarat and Maharashtra held a joint meeting in Surat to oppose the project, which is being implemented by National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL).
A group of about 80 farmers and activists gathered at the Mahatma Gandhi Nagar Gruh in Vadodara for the meeting. There, NHSRCL officials issued a notice for a second stakeholders consultation for the project. But the farmers raised a hue and cry, alleging that they were unaware of the first meeting. They demanded to see the report of the social impact assessment for the project and sought an explanation on why the meetings were being held in a disorganised manner. The protesting farmers and activists believed that the intent of the notice was not to publicise the public consultation for stakeholders but to merely dispense with a formality.
According to Jayesh Patel, president of Khedut Samaj (Gujarat), a farmers representative body, 192 villages in Gujarat and around 120 villages in Maharashtra will be affected by the bullet train project. The villages in which the land is to be acquired for the project include Telod, Ochhan, Mesrad, Mangrol, Kambola, Bodka, Handod, Khanda, Manpur, Pingalwada, Untiya, Medhad, Itola, Dasrath, Ajod, Padamla and Sankarda. Farmers in these villages are afraid of losing their livelihoods and not getting fair rates of compensation as the land acquisition laws in Gujarat were changed in 2016.
Members of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, an environmental committee based in Uttarakhand, as well as Khedut Samaj submitted a joint memorandum to district collectors of the affected districts as well as the chairman of the NHSRCL, seeking cancellation of such sudden meetings and demanding a fresh consultation with the stakeholders.
In December 2018, a threemember team led by Katsuo Matsumoto, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperative Agency (JICA), which will provide the units for the bullet train, met environmental activists and farmers in Surat, Navsari, Valsad and Bharuch whose lands will have to be acquired for the project. Matsumoto reportedly told the farmers and activists that he would present the issues of the farmers, in terms of compensation, social and economic impact, rehabilitation and resettlement and environmental concerns, before the top authorities of the JICA.
Meanwhile, protests continue. On February 6, 2019, farmers from 29 villages in Navsari held a protest rally against the bullet train project. Around 2,000 protesters submitted a memorandum in the Navsari Collectors office. They highlighted 14 concerns, including cutting of around two lakh trees and low compensation offered for the loss of farmland.
The ambitious project is a joint venture between India and Japan and is expected to become operational by 2022.