The Revenue Department of the Gujarat government has issued primary notifications for acquiring land in 165 cases in the state under section 11 of the latest amended land acquisition law for the ambitious Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project. With the issuance of the notifications, owners of the land, which has been earmarked for acquisition, cannot make any monetary deal on it — they can neither sell nor mortgage their land.
The BJP-led government’s decision has evoked strong criticism from the farmers’ outfits which have threatened to launch a massive stir against land acquisition. The BJP-led government in the state has already made it clear that it wants to complete the land acquisition process for the project — Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project, by December this year. The Prime Minister’s Office is directly supervising the progress in the project.
“We want to finish the acquisition process by December and this is a significant stage of the process. Now, the farmers whose land has been earmarked for acquisition cannot do any monetary transaction on the same. They can lodge their objections against the acquisition within 60 days of the concerned notification. And the state will have the authority to rule it out for public purpose,” a senior officer of the Revenue Department said.
According to the officer, the government has zeroed in on 185 cases where land is to be acquired, and the department has issued notifications for 165 cases for now. Two years ago, the BJP government in Gujarat had amended the Centre’s land acquisition law to remove the provision of mandatory consent of land losers for acquiring land for public purpose.
Noted farmers’ leader and secretary of Gujarat Khedut Samaj, Sagar Rabari, hit out at the government for its latest notification, saying the land losers will prevent the government authorities from taking possession of the earmarked land. “Yes, the government has issued notifications under Section 11 and is going ahead with the acquisition. But, we are not only going to protest it strongly, but will also not allow them to take physical possession of the land,” Rabari said.
Last month, the state government had passed a resolution to award 25 per cent additional incentive on compensation to any farmer in the state who gives consent for acquisition of his/her land for public purpose after a mutual agreement with the acquiring body over the amount of compensation. To get the 25 per cent incentive, the farmer has to give a written undertaking that he/she will not challenge the consent award in any court.
The resolution was issued in accordance with a provision of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Commencement’ (Gujarat Amendment) Act, 2016. In the case of the bullet train project, the acquiring body will be National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), a special purpose vehicle to implement the project.
Sources said that now with the issuance of the notifications under section 11 of the land Act, the officials of NHSRCL can negotiate the consent amount with the farmers. “In fact, they will do it now to expedite the land acquisition process for the project,” a senior officer said.
For the bullet train project, which is being executed with the financial and technical assistance of Japan, around 680 hectare land is to be acquired from eight districts of Gujarat. Farmers have already opposed the land acquisition, accusing the government and NHSRCL of not being transparent about the process.
“The land acquisition for the project is in violation of certain guidelines of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that is funding this project. I have already written to the JICA on those violations and will write to all the elected representatives of Japan in this regard. Also, if necessary, we will protest in front of Embassy of Japan in Delhi,” Rabari, the farmer leader, said.