The Supreme Court, on January 17, issued notice to the Government of Gujarat, Ministry of Railways and the National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC) and agreed to hear the petition of farmers of Gujarat against the process of land acquisition in the bullet train project.
The bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose sought response from the concerned authorities and posted it to be heard on March 20.
The farmers affected by bullet train project had resorted to appeal in the apex court after Gujarat High Court in September last year had junked over 120 writ petitions by farmers against the initiation of land acquisition process for the bullet train project. The high court had also upheld the validity of Land Acquisition Act 2013 amended by the Gujarat government.
On December 16 last year, as many as 50 Special Leave Petitions (SLP) were filed in the Supreme Court representing about 2,500 affected farmers challenging the Gujarat High Court’s verdict.
The farmers have sought for revision and updation of ‘jantri rate’ (market value) of their land as per the mandate of Section 26 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013. They have also contended that the Gujarat government amended the Act completely doing away with clauses like Social Impact Assessment and the Consent Clause.
Also read: Gujarat: 2,500 Farmers File SLPs Against HC Order on Bullet Train Land Acquisition
Farmers from Bharuch, Surat, Navsari and Valsad districts who had earlier filed petitions with the High Court had also filed SLPs in the Supreme Court through a panel of lawyers.
“We have demanded that the Central Government Land Acquisition Act of 2013 be implemented and not Gujarat government’s amended act of 2016. The Gujarat High Court did not consider issues of rehabilitation, social impact assessment or resettlement of the farmers. In the Supreme Court, our stand remains same as what we had submitted in the High Court. We have added that there should be uniform procedure of giving compensation to farmers since it is a central and multi-state project,” Jayesh Patel, President of Gujarat Khedut Samaj, a farmers’ rights organisation had said earlier when farmers had filed the SLPs.
Meanwhile, the multi-state bullet train project that is proposed to pass through Maharashtra, Gujarat and Dadra and Nagar Haveli has hit a road block in Maharashtra.
Hasan Mushrif, the Rural Development Minister of Maharashtra in a comment earlier this month, said that the BJP government focused only on metros and bullet train but neglected rural connectivity and roads.
In December last year, Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray had ordered a review of all projects initiated by the previous BJP-led government, especially big ones like bullet train project. The Thackeray government had called a meeting of top officials to discuss the viability of the bullet train project since it has been facing strong resistance from farmers and tribals in the Palghar region.
The Maharashtra CM’s decision was soon followed by a statement of Minister Jayant Patil who had said that they will reconsider whether mega projects like bullet train can be shelved, especially in view of the massive debt burden of Rs 6.71 lakh crore on the state.
Also watch: Along the Tracks of Bullet Train- A Ground Report