The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) has floated its first tender for India’s first bullet train project, even as it seeks to overcome local resistance to land acquisition in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
The tender is for building a bridge in Navsari district of Gujarat, where NHSRCL officials have been engaging residents to resolve issues related to land acquisition. This will be the first of the 60-odd bridges on the 508-km high-speed corridor.
With this, NHSRCL officials said, a gradual end to the deadlock over the land acquisition process in the two states is in sight. Sources said there are encouraging signs from Palghar in Maharashtra, where the NHSRCL has been battling resistance from farmers supported by MNS and local Shiv Sena units.
Last month, Sena mouthpiece Saamana published an advertorial highlighting the benefits of the project and compensation packages, indicating that a breakthrough was likely.
In Palghar, the NHSRCL has been able to rope in women of 73 villages where land is to be acquired. These women have been entrusted with the task of facilitating communication between the village heads and NHSRCL engineers for the joint measurement survey. A team of 15 women from various blocks has been set up to explain the compensation packages being offered and the exact land requirement.
Officials said this method is working, as the project team has been able to conduct surveys in 18 of the villages. Till a few months ago, the survey teams could not even enter some of these areas. In Dahanu, for instance, where the project team even faced violence, officials have now been able to establish contact with all the 16 villages where land is required.
“We have been able to establish dialogue with all the concerned in the villages so that there are no misgivings or lack of understanding about the project, as well as what we offer to the locals,” Dhananjay Kumar, NHSRCL spokesman, told The Indian Express. “We are on schedule as per the timeline of the project,” he said.
Meanwhile, the women are also documenting the needs of the villages for the NHSRCL project team — like constructing a boundary wall around water bodies that are the source of irrigation for multiple villages, taking care of medical facilities, and so on.
Of the total land requirement of around 1,400 hectares for the entire corridor, only around 0.9 hectares have been acquired so far. But NHSRCL officials said they would be able to stick to their timeline of starting civil work by December 2018-January 2019. In Palghar, the project requires around 300 hectares of land. The total land acquisition cost has been set at around Rs 10,000 crore.
In a first for projects involving land acquisition, the NHSRCL Board has decided to disclose the detailed compensation matrix for each land-owner and give them time to suggest corrections. There are around 3,000 land title holders in Palghar alone.
The NHSRCL has also decided to provide a one-time compensation to agricultural workers as well as those who work in shops which are likely to be affected.
The government wants to roll out the country’s first bullet train by August 2022, advancing it by a year, as the official deadline was 2023.