Work on the bullet train project must speed up if it intends to meet the August 2022 deadline
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, the biggest challenge has been land acquisition. Work on the project must speed up if it intends to meet its August 2022 deadline.
Close to 1,400 hectares of linear land will be acquired by the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore in 195 villages of Gujarat and 104 villages in Maharashtra, along with a small portion of Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
All land acquisitions for the project have to be completed by December 2018. An Economic Times report said only 0.9 hectares in Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) have been physically handed over so far.
The acquisition process is a little complicated. An aerial survey is conducted of the land, after which a physical survey is done to complete the verification. Compensation can only be given after conclusion of these surveys. The first phase of this process has been completed last year but the physical surveys are yet to be done.
Land acquisitions have also landed the project in a lot of legal trouble in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Five petitions have been filed in Gujarat High Court regarding use of fertile land in the project. A petition was filed by the Godrej group in Bombay High Court challenging acquisition of its 3.5 hectares in Vikhroli.
The compensation mechanism followed by NHSRCL varies in both states involved. The company is paying four times the circle rate of the land in Maharashtra, with a 25 percent bonus and a one-time payment of Rs 5 lakh.
There are particular compensations for landless agriculture workers, forest land and fruit farmers. NHSRCL will also pay 12 percent interest on the compensation amount to be calculated from the date of notice.
The ET report says the Gujarat government will offer either 4.75 times the existing prices for the land or the average rate within a 1.5-km radius, whichever is higher. The company is offering the same 25 percent bonus with additional sops.
The project has seen resistance because the bullet train may end up splitting farms of numerous agricultural workers and cause disruption in farming operations. It also affects livelihood and resources of people in the area.To make up for it, the company is paying a special compensation based on the extent of the split. The land split on either side by the train will remain with the owner, who can use the land any way he wants. The NHSRCL must be informed only when there is building or high-rise construction on the land. The company is also convincing farmers that their demands of healthcare, education and drinking water will be fulfilled.