After facing resistance due to local politics, demand for “government jobs” and doubts in villagers about the compensation package, the bullet train project has finally started seeing some progress in Palghar and officials are confident that the December deadline for land acquisition will be met.
Of the 28 villages in Palghar taluk, joint measurement survey has been conducted in 11 and is set to be conducted in five others in the next few days, officials said Saturday on the sidelines of a function organised by National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL) in Virathan Khurd, one of the villages where the survey has not taken place yet due to protests.
The survey is an on-the-ground, final assessment of the exact requirement of land to work out compensation. This is done by a joint team of district officials, company engineers and affected parties. “We are confident that the land acquisition process will be complete by December-end,” Achal Khare, Managing Director of the company said.
The function, organised at the village school compound, was to distribute books and other stationery to schoolchildren, responding to needs of the villagers, and to inaugurate a clinic set up by NHSRCL. The company has been on an outreach drive for the past eight months to get people to part with a 60-feet linear tract from their land. “This centre will continue to run even after the project is done. We are here for a long-term relationship,” Khare said.
Virathan Khurd is one of the villages at the heart of the land-acquisition hurdle in Palghar.
Of the 25-odd people affected by the corridor’s proposed alignment in the village, many have demanded government jobs over and above the compensation, which is five times the market value. “They should give railway jobs to our family member. I am opposed to the project because we should get something worthwhile in return,” said Parashuram Jaikar (50). A part of Jaikar’s land has been identified for the project.
“We don’t know what is being offered and for what. How can we give up our land or allow surveys without understanding what’s in it for us?” said Nitin Gaikwad, a 25-year-old landowner.
The company cannot give jobs but is offering one-time monetary compensation for the loss of livelihood. “We have given in writing that not just landowners, but also those working in the agriculture land will get compensation. We are also providing various skill trainings. Around 35,000-40,000 skilled and unskilled labourers will be sourced from these villages once work starts here,” Khare said.
Local politics, meanwhile, has played itself out in the land acquisition process. The village sarpanch in Virathan Khurd is Rajashri Sadanand Kini from Shiv Sena, which has opposed the acquisition. “I am with the villagers. Yes, people have problems with the project. Whatever villagers want, I will support. If someone’s house is getting demolished, he wants a house, the company should satisfy the villagers,” Kini, the chief guest at the function, told The Indian Express. “The village doesn’t get regular supply of water; the school is in a bad state, the roads are washed out in rain.”
The Mayor of neighbouring taluk Dahanu is Bharat Singh Rajput of BJP. “If there was no development, the BJP would not have won the Palghar seat in the recent Lok Sabha bypolls. Some people with no connection with the project are opposing it,” he said.
Dahanu has 16 villages where land would be required. “We plan to get the survey done this month. People from six villages have given me their demands and I have conveyed them to the company.”