By Prarthana Mitra
Farmers of Gujarat have taken up the cudgels to stop the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. They have already petitioned to the Japanese government, which is sponsoring the state-of-the-art commute system, to protest against wrongful land acquisition.
Asking the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to withhold disbursal of their soft loan to the Indian government, on grounds that the centre is violating the agency’s guidelines for financial assistance.
Here’s what happened
Five petitioners and 1,000 other affected farmers, led by the Gujarat Khedut Samaj, have written to the Japan government, challenging the land acquisition for the Rs 1.10 lakh crore project and accusing the government of flagrantly violating JICA’s terms. For instance, JICA has expressly demanded the setting up of an advisory committee for environmental and social considerations, when no such committee has been formed.
Consider the social and ecological impact, says letter to Japan
The latest environmental and social impact assessment reports date back to 2010 but it does not take into account, the impact of other projects such as Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Western Dedicated Freight Corridor and Express Highways which were undertaken in the intervening period.
The cumulative impact of all these projects in the region must be considered, the letter demanded.
Advocate Anand Yagnik said they have also sought an appointment with Japan’s Ambassador to India in the letter, inviting him to Gujarat to take full stock of the situation and sympathise with the farmers.
The dispute right now is over 1,400 hectares of land spanning across Gujarat and Maharashtra, of which 1,120 hectares of which is privately owned. This project is not the first time that the Indian government has forcibly acquired fertile farmland to globalise and “develop” the country at the cost of the agriculture sector. The bullet train project was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in September 2017. The construction is slated to begin near Thane in January 2019.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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