Rights of farmers being bulldozed: Congress’ Patel writes to PM over land acquisition for bullet train
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel expressed his reservations over the way farmers’ land was being acquired for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project in written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention.
Stating that farmers’ constitutional rights were being “bulldozed”, the Rajya Sabha MP said the land must be acquired under the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and not under its modified version cleared by the Gujarat government.
“For long, the rights of farmers and farm labourers over agriculture land were being trampled upon by large and powerful interests,” Patel said in the letter sent on Tuesday.
The National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC) and the district officials are in the process of acquiring agricultural land from farmers in several districts of South Gujarat for the bullet train project, the letter added.
“Farmers representatives have complained that rules and procedures laid down under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, were not being followed,” it said.
Patel said public consultation process for those whose land needs to be acquired is being conducted in a manner contrary to what is “mandated in the Act”.
“Instead of the Land Act, 2013 passed by the Lok Sabha, the acquisition of land is being carried out under the diluted version of the Act passed subsequently by the Gujarat Assembly, which in effect runs contrary to the law passed by the Parliament,” Patel said.
“As per the regulations in the Act passed by Gujarat, the need for mandatory consent of farmers and social impact assessment has been done away with,” Patel said.
These omissions in the Act “descend down to mere tokenism”, the Congress leader said adding, “Farmers have opposed the land acquisition process for metro trains in meetings with the officials of the NHSRC.”
“Our objective is not to obstruct the project the government is undertaking. But in the process of building a bullet train, we can’t bulldoze the constitutional rights of farmers,” he said.
He urged the prime minister to ensure that the Land Act 2013 is implemented in “letter and spirit” for the acquisition.
Earlier, former PM Manmohan Singh had criticised the bullet train project, dubbing it as “exercise in vanity”, and said the government’s “priorities are misplaced” as it should have focused on the existing passenger rail network.
Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram had recently said that 99 per cent of India’s population would not be able to travel in “elitist” bullet train.
In September last year, Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe had launched the ambitious project entailing a total cost of around Rs 1.10 lakh crore. Japan is extending a loan of Rs 88,000 crore for the project at a minimal interest of 0.1 per cent.
The country’s first bullet train will run at a maximum speed of 350 km per hour, covering the stretch in under three hours from the usual seven. The train will halt at 12 stations, of which four will be in Maharashtra.