Farmer leaders and environmentalists who met representatives of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is funding the Rs 1.08 lakh crore bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, in Surat city on Saturday said that the visiting officials were “shocked” to know that proper procedures were not followed by the government for acquiring land.
Speaking to The Sunday Express, Khedut Samaj Gujarat president Jayesh Patel said, “We showed all the documents to the JICA officials, including the petitions and affidavits filed by the affected farmers in the High Court… We informed them that over 2,200 farmers in 192 villages spread across eight districts of Gujarat have been affected by the bullet train project. The Gujarat government did not listen to their issues and the declared compensation is so less that with that money they cannot purchase another agricultural land in nearby area for livelihood. We showed them pictures and newspaper cuttings of arrest of farmers by police, when the land acquisition officials turned to the fields for measuring land. They (JICA officials) were shocked to find that the government did not held talks with the affected farmers over land acquisition, and teams were sent directly to the fields for marking the land.”
What’s at the root of protest
One of the reasons why farmers are resisting the Gujarat government’s land acquisition law is because it has compromised the need for social impact assessment. The state has defended it, saying that such an assessment was not required since bullet train project is a linear one. This may be one of the concerns for Japan which is providing loan for the project. The state government should also be concerned as the High Court is seized of the matter.
The three-member team of JICA, led by Katsuo Matsumoto, had met affected farmers of Surat, Navsari, Valsad and Bharuch on Friday.
“JICA officials were shocked that the true picture of farmers were not shown to them and the information they received from the government on land acquisition was totally different. Matsumoto told us that he would put up the issues of farmers, in terms of compensation, social and economical impact, rehabilitation and resettlement and environmental issues, before the top authorities of JICA, ” Jayesh Patel said.
Rohit Prajapati, an environmentalist, who also met the JICA representatives on Saturday, said that the government did not implement the guidelines of JICA.
“As per the JICA guidelines, the consultation meeting with affected farmers should be held after appropriate time is given to farmers. But here, the district collector announced the meeting date and time only 24 hours in advance. Officials of Ministry of Environment and Forest and Social Justice department were not present in a single meeting. We put forth all these issues before the JICA officials and they were shocked and upset as no proper procedures were followed,” said Prajapati.
Of the estimated 1,434 hectare of land needed for the 508-km-long high speed rail project , 1,081 hectare falls in Gujarat.