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Opposition, land rights network come together, demand scrapping of Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project

By Our Representative
In an unusual development, India’s land rights network Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (BAA) and 12 opposition parties, including Indian National Congress (INC), Samajwadi Party, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janata Dal (Secular), and Left parties (CPI, CPI-M), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have demanded scrapping of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project project, even as appreciating the suspension of the loans to the project by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as a “small step of success”.
In a statement issued in the wake of the Jan Manch organized in Delhi, BAA warned, “If the government does not withdraw this project, BAA will fiercely oppose it. It will also keep building resistance against all anti-people development projects which require forcible land acquisitions and the loot of natural resources.” It asked all political parties to include “scrapping of the project to be included in the manifestos of all opposition parties.”
The statement said, “The bullet train project is yet another instance of the current government’s skewed and biased idea of development. The project will potentially wreak havoc on farmers and communities across Gujarat and Maharashtra and will lead to irreversible damage to the environment and also pushing thousands of people to displacement and utter poverty.”
It continued, “The entire project is extremely devastating in terms of finances and will drown the country in debt in the coming years. Clearly, the way the project is planned, stands to serve the capitalists’ interest. It aids the devastating industrial corridors and is designed to be inaccessible to the common public.”
It added, “Currently the country is facing international flak for not being able to provide basic amenities like food, education, health and sanitation. Instead of focusing on the basic needs that will aid in the holistic development of the people and the communities, the government continues to sell people’s resources for the benefit of the corporate mafia in the country.”
In his opening remarks, Hannan Mollah, national convener, BAA, criticised the government’s decision to dilute the clauses of peoples’ consent, social impact assessment and others in the Transparency in the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act 2013 for a project which is “basically anti-people”. He added, “This was possible only by the central government bringing in ordinance to topple down the existing Act. The need of the hour is a political movement that will finally be pro-people.”
Ulka Mahajan of the Sarvahara Jan Andolan, expressing anguish over the the project, said, “Political and economic decisions that are made in Delhi are extremely ignorant of the ground realities of the rest of the country. In the name of infrastructure development, the government is attracting foreign investment. But the question remains, at the cost of whom are these projects being initiated?”
INC’s Ashok Tanwar in his message, said that the policies and projects of the Modi government are “anti-poor, anti-farmer and anti-worker in nature”, adding, “The government is specifically facilitating few rich corporate conglomerates. The need of the hour is to invest in the Indian Railways which actually caters to the larger public unlike the bullet train. Congress has pledged its full support to BAA and the farmers till the bullet train project is scrapped.”
DP Tripathi of NCP stated that the bullet train project is a ploy to assassinate the farmers of Maharashtra and Gujarat. He added, “The priority of the government should be to address the primary needs and demands of the people and current government has no focus which is people centric.”
Somnath Bharti of AAP spoke of the current government’s “misguided priorities”, saying, “We should prioritise improvement of people’s health, education and basic amenities. The bullet train project doesn’t benefit the common people, it only aids the already rich and thriving.”
Shri. D. Raja of CPI said that the government lacks vision. Instead of strengthening the existing infrastructure of the railways to make it affordable and accessible to common people, it has put forward a project which has “no rationale”.
Naval Kishore of RJD said, “ The history of the current government is one which does not respect the constitution. They have always cheated the people of the country, like they are doing now through policies like goods and services tax (GST) and processes like demonetisation.”
Javed Ali of Samajwadi Party said the bullet train project has not been envisioned in the development paradigm which is people-oriented. “When the fundamental infrastructure is not yet in place, a project like this for a small distance is unjustified and is a distortion of people centred development”, he added.
KK Ragesh of CPI-M said, “In a country where more than 2 crore children are out of schools and there is dearth of health facilities, the priority of this government is misplaced. The bullet train project is just an ornamental one which is illogical, especially when the government does not allocate resources in the social sectors.”

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