Skip to main content

Bullet train acquisition: Land holding worth Rs 1.5 crore, Gujarat govt 'offer' Rs 8 lakh

By RK Misra*
Foundation stones laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi litter India’s cities, towns and villages, but there are few projects which he has pursued with such perseverance and tenacity as the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train one. However, the overwhelming state power notwithstanding, the farmers, whose lands are being acquired for the Modi government’s dream project, have no plans to give up the fight.
The project, estimated to cost Rs 1.10 lakh crore, is being built with assistance of Rs 88,087 crore from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) through a 50-year loan at an interest rate of 0.1 per cent. The remaining cost is being borne by the Gujarat and Maharashtra governments.
The foundation stone of the project was formally laid in Ahmedabad on September 14, 2017, in the presence of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Originally, the first train was to run by March 2023 but for reasons unstated, the prime minister has advanced the date to 2022 to coincide with 75 years of Independence.
Many would say that the target set is impossible to achieve. The assumption is not due to technical reasons. The project has been mired in legal tangles almost from day one. It may have got a shot in the arm when the Gujarat High Court last month ruled against farmers challenging the land acquisition process and demanding higher compensation, but the verdict has only set the stage for a final slugfest in the Supreme Court.
The Court on September 19, 2019 dismissed the pleas of over 120 farmers and upheld the validity of the Land Acquisition Act that was amended by the Gujarat government in 2016. “We are of the considered opinion that the challenge to validity of Section 10A read with Section 2(1) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement [Gujarat Amendment] Act, 2016 cannot be accepted and held to be unconstitutional or illegal,” the Court said.
The farmers had challenged the state amendment that had altered the central law of 2013. The Court also dismissed the claims of farmers that the state government lacked competence to issue a land acquisition notice as the project was being shared between Gujarat and Maharashtra. It also held as valid the issuing of a notification on land acquisition without taking into consideration the social impact assessment as well as rehabilitation and resettlement issues as mandated under the central law.
Well-known environmentalist and human rights activist Rohit Prajapati has, however, gone on record to term the judgment “bad in law, spirit and undesirable... It almost reads like a recording of the proceeding and at the end, opinion of the court and not like a well-conceived comprehensive judicial order,” he said.
Gujarat High Court ruling against farmers challenging land acquisition has only set the stage for slugfest in the Supreme Court
Prajapati, who heads the Vadodara-based environmental organisation, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti -- which alongside other farmer set-ups has been at the forefront of the stir -- stated that the “crucial principles of the law of the land, legal and other issues raised therein have not been addressed within the proper legal framework." He said:
“A critical and complex matter has been narrowed down to simple opinion by the Court without a sound basis, critical examination of all facts, factors, democratic process of decision-making as well as social and environmental impacts”.
According to Prajapati, the judgment not only set a bad precedent but will also lead to severe and grave short as well as long-term consequences for the project-affected people, justice and the environment. Farmers and affected landowners also expressed their disappointment with the High Court judgment.
“My present land holding is worth about Rs 1.5 crore according to the current market rate but the government is only giving me Rs 8 lakh as compensation,” said an affected farmer in Kamrej taluka of Surat. Another farmer in adjoining Navsari district terms the order anti-farmer. “We are demanding compensation for our land at market value and will now knock on the doors of the apex court,” he said.
Anand Yagnik, the counsel for some of the petitioners, put it succinctly. He said that the farmers were not against the project and all they wanted was fair compensation for their land. The state government is offering land as per the 2011 jantri rate. The jantri is the rate of land fixed by the state government for a particular area on the basis of which stamp duty is decided. “This cannot be the benchmark when the market rates, at places, are now over 10 times the rate,” he contended.
The farmers aver that not only should their land be acquired at the rate at which the state government had sold its land for other projects, but the rehabilitation and resettlement should be as mandated under the Central Land Acquisition Act, 2013.
Interestingly the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) report of March 2018 points towards massive loss to the public exchequer due to irregularities in the calculation and use of jantri rates which have not been revised since 2011. The report says:
“According to instructions from the High Court, the state government had planned an annual review of jantri rates but failed to apply them from 2012 to 2017 and due to this non-compliance lost huge sums of money."  
The opposition Congress has put the loss at Rs 25,000 crore. It is this non-revision of jantri rates which is at the core of the dispute with the farmers.
The High Court bench of Justices AS Dave and Biren A Vaishnav, which rejected the pleas of over 120 farmers, told the petitioners to seek higher compensation for their land from the concerned authorities. The Court also said that the farmers may highlight instances where a higher compensation was provided by the National Highways Authority of India(NHAI) or any other body in terms of land acquisition.
Following the judgment, the farmers have decided to approach the Supreme Court. Their contention remains that the compensation being provided to them is on the basis of the 2011 jantri rates and acquisition cannot be initiated without revising the land prices as provided for under the law.
As things remain, those standing up to be counted are not prepared to duck a fight. Respect existence or expect resistance, is how they put it!
---
*Senior Gujarat journalist based in Gujarat. Blog: http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.com/

Comments

TRENDING

August 22 to be observed as Apostasy Day: International coalition of ex-Muslim groups

By Our Representative
In a unique move, an international coalition of ex-Muslim organisations has decided to observe August 22, 2020 as the Apostasy Day. To be observed for “the abandonment or renunciation of religion”, the coalition, calling upon people to join the call, said, the decision to observe the Apostasy Day has been taken because of apostasy is “punishable by death in Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, UAE, and Yemen.”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur*
Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tata Mundra: NGOs worry as US court rules World Bank can't be sued for 'damages'

By Kate Fried, Mir Jalal*
On August 24 evening, a federal court ruled that the World Bank Group cannot be sued for any damage caused by its lending, despite last year’s Supreme Court ruling in the same case that these institutions can be sued for their “commercial activity” in the United States.