Gujarat: Farmers affected by bullet train project move Supreme Court

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The authorities acquired 25,440 square meters of land from farmers for the bullet train project. (Illustration)

Over 50 farmers affected by the bullet trian project from four districts in South Gujarat, under the umbrella of Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG), moved the Supreme Court on Monday, challenging the Gujarat High Court ruling in favour of the acquisition process adopted by the Gujarat government.

The KSG is planning inter-state movement and agitation for the farmers in Gujarat and Maharashtra who lost their land to the project, in the coming days. On Tuesday, over 60 house owners of Vadodara, whose houses are on land acquired for the bullet train project, will file a petition with the Supreme Court.

The farmers who filed petitions in the Supreme Court through a panel of lawyers are from Bharuch, Surat, Navsari and Valsad districts. They had earlier filed a petition with the Gujarat High Court. In October 2019, the Gujarat High Court upheld the land acquisition process adopted by the state, keeping the issue of compensation open while giving farmers the liberty to approach the government at the appropriate time.

KSG South Gujarat president Jayesh Patel said, “We have demanded that the Central Government Land acquisition Act of 2013 should be implemented and Gujarat State Amendment Act of 2016 should be cancelled. The Gujarat High Court did not look into issues such as rehabilitation and resettlement of farmers, social impact assessment and certain other points. In the Supreme Court, the points included in our petitions are the same as what we submitted in the HC. Since it is a multi-state project, there should be uniform procedure of giving compensation to the farmers. The farmers should get compensation that amounts to four times the market value of the land. Before acquiring the land, the government should take consent of farmers and land should not be forcefully acquired.”

He added, “Today, over 50 affected farmers filed their petitions with affidavits in the Supreme Court and on Tuesday, over 60 people from Vadodara, whose houses fall in the bullet train project area will move the Supreme Court. The new government in Maharashtra has come out in support of the farmers. In co-ordination with the farmers association of Maharashtra, we will carry out protests and agitations in the coming days.”

Emphasizing that KSG was not against development, Jayesh Patel said, “Farmers should be properly compensated. There should not be discrepancies. In Surat, the farmer whose land is near the city gets Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 per metre, while in the interior villages, the land loser farmer gets Rs 40 to Rs 50 per metre. It is but natural that farmers will oppose.

One of the applicants, Praveen Patel, a resident of Galudi village in Kamrej taluka of Surat district, said, “Over 19 guntas (almost one bigah) of my farming land falls in the bullet train project area and the government fixed a price of Rs 93 per square metre as per 2011 census. I calculated and found that maximum amount I will get from the government not more than Rs 12 lakh, but the market value of my land is Rs 2.50 crore per bigah. Why should I give my land for bullet train project with such huge difference? In our meeting with the Surat District Collector, we proposed that we are ready to give our land but the government should allot an equal area of farming land in our village or neighbouring village.”