At a time when National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) officials have claimed that they are making progress on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Corridor, villagers from the project-affected region have reportedly, through their gram sabhas, declared that they would not give up their land for the project. Villagers accused the NHSRCL officials of spreading misinformation and even threatened to go on a hunger strike.
In a letter, addressed to Palghar collector, Khaniwade villagers said, “We, as a village gram sabha, want to clarify that none of us are in favour of the high-speed bullet train project and we are not going to let our lands go.”
Shashi Sonawane, an adivasi rights activist from the area, said, “More than 40 villages are unhappy with the project and no one has let even land survey take place.”
Sanjay Patil from Walve, one of the villages that is vehemently opposing the bullet train project, said villagers have panchnama reports stating that their land was not measured. “More than 20 villages have not allowed any land mapping. Why should we let them measure our land when we have no intention of parting with it,” Patil said.
Activists from Palghar have also claimed that the NHSRCL and the district collector have been running a misinformation dissipating campaign. “In 2018, the NHSRCL called for a public hearing regarding the environmental impact of the bullet train project. I attended that meeting both the times and it was called off in both the cases. Yet, in their report, it is stated that due public hearing has taken place. We have informed about this to the Japanese delegation through letters and emails too,” activists Sameer Vartak said.
Meanwhile, the NHSRCL officials claim that these are just a small group of dissenting villages, while most others have complied. “We have measured land at 63 out of the 73 villages in Palghar. In other areas too, land measurement survey is going on smoothly with the help of the district administration and police. Villagers have all been very understanding and we are working with them,” a senior officer from NHSRCL said.