A team of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is funding the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train venture, on Saturday concluded its two-day meeting with Gujarat farmers and villagers opposed to land acquisition for the project.
The Japanese government’s funding agency is providing a soft loan to India for the first high speed train project in the country which is expected to cost Rs 1.08 lakh crore.
The three-member team led by JICA’s chief representative Katsuo Matsumoto met hundreds of farmers, whose lands will have to be acquired for the project, from south Gujarat districts.
The team heard the farmers’ grievances and legal issues over two days.
JICA officials were not available for comment.
Farmers’ leaders said they apprised the team with the ground reality of the land acquisition process and how it “flouts” JICA’s guidelines.
Several farmers have challenged the state government’s land acquisition process in the Gujarat High Court. They claim the process is not in accordance with the law.
Farmers had earlier written to JICA, requesting its officials to visit the affected villages to understand the ground reality.
On Friday, around 400 project-affected persons gathered at Amadpore in Navsari district where they made their representations before the JICA team, said Jayesh Patel of Gujarat Khedut Samaj, a farmers’ outfit.
“The second meeting was held at Kathor village in Surat district where more than 150 houses will have to be razed to pave the way for the bullet train. JICA met 200 farmers there,” he said.
The team also met representatives of Adivasi Ekta Parishad from Maharashtra.
The representatives told the JICA team how rules were being “flouted” for acquiring forest land for the project, Patel said.
Representatives from NGOs working for farmers and environment met the team on Saturday.
“Based on our representation, the JICA team will prepare a report on environmental and social aspects of land acquisition, issues of compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement and human rights, for consideration by higher authorities,” Patel said.
“Villagers who met the JICA team said the government was not taking into account the impact land acquisition will have on their social life,” said lawyer Anand Yagnik, who is representing farmers in the high court.
Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, an NGO working for environment protection, highlighted the “violations” by authorities for land acquisition in its representation.
“As you (JICA) know, such projects are a matter of concern not only for the project-affected people, but all global citizens,” it said in its submission.
“We must uphold the universal human rights and principles and laws related to environmental protection and social justice,” it added.
The ambitious 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 between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
Around 1,400 hectares of land will have to be acquired in Gujarat and Maharashtra for the project. Of that 1,120 hectares is privately owned.