After missing the December 2018 deadline for acquiring land for the ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, officials in Gujarat said that the process will take at least seven more months, and will extend into the second half of 2019.
“Land acquisition process can be said to complete when we disburse money to the farmers from whom the land has been acquired. Till now, we have reached the final notification stage where we have issued final notifications in over 100 of the 190-odd villages where land is to be acquired for the bullet train project. This notification clearly specifies the area that will be acquired and asks farmers to file objections within a month’s time,” a senior official from the state Revenue Department told The Indian Express.
The notifications are issued as per Section 19 of the state land acquisition law — the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2016.
Just a temporary halt for the LS polls
With the Lok Sabha elections nearing, the BJP government in Gujarat is treading with caution while acquiring land for the bullet train project. While the focus is currently on farmers who are giving their “consent” for the acquisition process, the acquisition process is expected to pick up pace once the elections conclude. Meanwhile, the Gujarat High Court, which is hearing pleas of farmers opposing the land acquisition process, is expected to deliver a judgement soon.
While the slowing of land acquisition process could be attributed to farmers’ opposition to it — petitions are pending in the Gujarat High Court against the acquisition of land for the project —, the upcoming Lok Sabha elections also seem to have played a part in it.
Cautious of not aggrieving the farmers in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP government in the state is acquiring land only from those farmers who are “willingly offering their land” for the project.
Though the state Revenue Department could not put a figure to the quantum of land that has been acquired in the state till December 2018 deadline set by the Government of India, an official said, “Currently, the acquisition process is on at places where people are coming forward and giving consent for acquisition. A clearer picture about land being acquired with consent will emerge only by the end of March. We are yet to compile the data of farmers who are giving land with consent.”
According to the official, the maximum number of cases of farmers willingly giving their land for acquisition were from Vadodara, Anand, Bharuch and some parts of Surat districts.
The state government has promised to give farmers who willingly offer their land for the project a 25 per cent bonus. The government will also make an up-front payment to the farmer which will be 80 percent of the awarded amount.
The land acquisition process for the bullet train project began around August 2018 when The Indian Express reported NHSRCL putting up pillars across farmlands in Gujarat indicating the alignment of the bullet train corridor.
“Land acquisition is a complex process involving five stages. Each stage has a notice period. A consolidated picture on land acquisition will only emerge after March. The state government is looking to finish land acquisition as soon as possible, but it will take a minimum of seven months to complete the process,” the official said.
The official, however, was not sure if the delay in land acquisition would cause the project to miss the targeted completion deadline of 2022.
The state government along with National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) will be acquiring 612 hectares in Gujarat, 7.5 hectares in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and 246 hectares in Maharashtra.
The total Project Affected Persons (PAPs) in Gujarat is 5,404 of which the highest is in Ahmedabad district at 1,196, followed by Kheda at 783.
The official pointed out that the process of land acquisition in Gujarat was much ahead of that happening in Maharashtra.
Moreover, the state government is expecting a majority of private land holders to give their consent for the acquisition.
“For those who will not give their consent, we will go ahead as per the existing land acquisition law in the coming months,” the official added.