The Maharashtra government has rejected the stand taken by the Vasai Virar City Municipal Corporation (VVCMC) that voted to shoot down the proposal to align its development plan to make way for the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train. The government has now asked the urban development department to directly take over the alignment process.
While the VVCMC received correspondence regarding the same, farmers met a Japanese delegation on Thursday and told the delegates that they will not give up their land for the high-speed train corridor.
According to municipal commissioner Satish Lokhande, the general body of corporators had, on December 20, 2018, rejected a proposal to realign the development plan to accommodate the bullet train. “As a government officer, I had passed on the message to the state government. They have now informed us that they are rejecting our refusal, and instead asking us to do the realignment; it is directly being handled by them,” said Lokhande, adding, “the government has the right to refuse the municipal corporation’s stand under the Maharashtra Municipal Corporation Act, 1949.”
However, he said the realignment process will require seeking suggestions and objections from the public. “The government will soon ask for suggestions from the general public, following which they will take necessary action. But the bullet train is an important project and will pass from our area,” he added.
In December, the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA), majority party in the VVCMC, took the decision of rejecting the proposal.
Kshitij Thakur, BVA MLA, said, “We are not against development. We are not saying that we don’t want good things for the country. But the people of the area want to know what the government has planned for them. Without giving a feasible alternative and without accommodating them, you can’t expect them to give up everything they have. If the government has proposals for an alternative, we are willing to listen.”
Japanese delegation meets villagers
A team of delegates from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the funding agency for the bullet train project, met villagers from Palghar district, areas of which are likely to come under the corridor. “We told them that none of the farmers will give up even an inch of our land. This project is not beneficial to us, why are we expected to give up our only means of survival then?” said Kaluram Dhodade, the head of Aadiwasi Ekta Parishad and Bhoomisena.
He added: “Hanumannagar village was set up when the government wanted land for some other projects. Now, people have managed to find a means to eke out a living here and they want us to move again? Are we not residents of this country?” Local environmentalist Sameer Vartak said: “We told the delegates that the ecosystem of this area is fragile. A lot of the route passes from the mangrove wetlands, which is the backbone of the environment in this area. If the bullet train project takes off, it will damage the ecological balance here and that can have grave consequences.” Achal Khare, the head of the National High Speed Rail Corridor Limited, said the JICA delegates did not share the content of their meeting with the villagers.