The process of acquiring land to construct the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is the slowest in Navsari district of south Gujarat, where only 5.66 percent of the land needed for the project has been acquired as of September 2020, as per sources at the National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL).
Of the total 92.77 hectare (ha) of proposed acquisition in this district, only 5.26 ha has been acquired. The pace of acquisition is slower than that in Palghar and suburban Mumbai, both in Maharashtra, where 14.85 percent and 18.67 percent of land, respectively, have already been acquired.
“For the bullet train project, we are yet to award the first compensation to the farmers in Navsari. There are about 740 farmers in the district whose farmlands will be acquired for the project,” said Tushar Jani, a state government official and the land acquisition officer for the project.
Jani, who also handles land acquisition for the Dedicated Freight Corridor and the Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway, said that the land acquisition was a complex process and farmers affected by the bullet train project can also appeal against the compensation awarded to them. “In the next couple of weeks, the first compensations will be announced,” he added.
In the past, farmers in Navsari had agitated against the land acquisition and, several times, prevented officials from conducting surveys of their farms. “The farmers in this district want compensation as per existing market rates. This is not possible under the current land acquisition law,” Jani remarked.
The NHSRCL will be acquiring 1396.37 ha of land for the bullet train project of which 955.9 ha is in Gujarat, 431.51 ha in Maharashtra and 8.96 ha in the Union Territory of Dadra Nagar Haveli. Of the proposed land acquisition, Gujarat has completed 82.17 percent of the acquisition so far, followed by Dadra Nagar Haveli at 79.57 percent and Maharashtra at 23.21 percent.
Senior advocate Anand Yagnik, who has been representing a number of farmers agitating against acquisitions of their farmlands in the Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court, said, “Compensation has been awarded to more than 80 percent of farmers, most of which are on paper. This has been done to show that the land acquisition is over… Until and unless the possession of the land is taken over by the state, the land acquisition remains incomplete. My question is of the 5,800 farmers whose land is being acquired in Gujarat and the 14,000 non-landed properties — what is the quantum of land or properties of which possession has been taken?”
According to Yagnik, the case pertaining to the land acquisition initiated by the state government for the bullet train is pending for final hearing in the SC. “More than 750 farmers from Gujarat have approached the SC in this regard,” he added.
In Gujarat, the maximum land acquisitions have happened in Anand, where 99.06 percent of the 53.62 ha needed for the project has been acquired. The neighbouring district of Kheda has also completed acquisition of 98 percent of 110.43 ha in the district.
Ahmedabad (95.67 percent), Bharuch (95.57 percent), Valsad (87.39 percent), Vadodara (84.54 percent) and Surat (80.9 percent) are the districts in Gujarat that have reported higher percentages of land acquisitions.
In Maharashtra, the highest quantum of land acquisition has taken place at Thane, where 40.2 percent of the 141.65 ha have been acquired. In Dadra and Nagar Haveli, 79.57 percent of the land acquisition has been completed.
According to the NHSRCL, over Rs 3,700 crore has already been disbursed to farmers whose private land has been acquired for the project. As of September 16, 2020, Rs 3,072 crore has been disbursed as compensation in Gujarat, while an additional Rs 716 crore has been given in Maharashtra.
When asked when the land acquisition process will be completed, a spokesperson of the NHSRCL said “it is not possible to give an exact timeline with the ongoing Covid-19 situation.”
The earlier deadline set by the Government of India for completing land acquisition for the bullet train project was December 2018.
The acquisition process had begun around August 2018, when The Indian Express first reported about the NHSRCL putting up pillars across farmlands in Gujarat, indicating the alignment of the bullet train.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines