A farmers’ body along with the Congress party in Gujarat will hold a “referendum” among cultivators affected by the land acquisition for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project. The organisation further plans to submit views of farmers in Parliaments of India and Japan. The land acquisition for the project is facing opposition from farmers in Gujarat, with villagers not allowing the measurement survey to take place in many places. Farmer leaders are demanding that acquisition take place under the Central law and not the state act.
The BJP-ruled state has diluted certain provisions of the 2013 land acquisition act passed under the UPA government by making amendments like doing away with the mandatory social impact assessment and consent of a majority of farmers. Land acquisition for the bullet train project is being carried out under this amended state act of 2016.
A campaign, titled ‘Khedut Sampark Abhiyan’, has been planned over the issue for four days from June 22, starting from the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad and covering 192 villages affected by the bullet train project. The Gujarat Khedut Samaj, a trust working for the state’s farmers, will organise the outreach drive together with the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee to consult farmers affected by the bullet train and various other projects, the organisation said in a press release.
“The first such outreach drive is meant to ascertain views of farmers on land acquisition in the context of the anti-farmer state amendment brought about by the Gujarat government in the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013,” it said. The campaign is intended to promote a dialogue with farmers who have been, or are going to be affected by the multi-state projects such as bullet train, dedicated freight corridor, Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway, the expansion of National Highways and existing railway lines, it said.
“In the process, farmers of 192 villages affected by the bullet train project, and cultivators of more than 100 other villages affected by other multi-state projects will be approached collectively,” it said. In all, 16 meetings will be held for a period of four days in clusters with farmers from several villages, on the bullet train route covering all the respective districts, the organisation said.
“The sampark abhiyan will be followed by a referendum among all farmers who are going to be affected by the bullet train project and their views will be submitted before Parliaments of India and Japan,” it added. When contacted, Gujarat Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said the party was supporting this programme.
“We are not against the bullet train project, but at the way in which the state government is acquiring land from farmers. We want to ensure that the project does not hurt the interests of the state’s farmers,” he said. The amendment to the Land Acquisition Act was against the farmers’ interests, Doshi said.
The Gujarat Khedut Samaj has also alleged that guidelines laid down by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for land acquisition are being flouted by officials engaged in the process. The guidelines of the agency, which will provide soft loans for project, seek proper consultation with stake holders and assessment of social and environmental impact for acquisition, it said.
Activists opposing the process had recently written to JICA intimating it about the manner in which its guidelines were being allegedly flouted in the acquisition process. In several villages, locals have not allowed teams to to enter their land for survey.
Land from farmers across eight districts of Gujarat will be needed to be acquired for the ambitious Rs 1.16 lakh crore project, the foundation stone for which was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in September 2017. The bullet train will run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai covering a distance of 508 km.