Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train: India’s first high-speed rail line faces hurdles

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train is stuck since five months despite attempts to speed up the project by the Maharashtra government. The train will be India’s first high-speed rail line.

The government sought an exception from the process of getting mandatory approvals from acquiring grazing land in Thane and Palghar on March 6 this year. However, the request is pending with Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, reports Hindustan Times.

The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) needs over 1.4 acres (57 gunthas) of grazing land covering four gram sabhas in Thane and Palghar districts. On the other hand, a few of them are against of it.

A senior revenue official who did not wish to be named told to Hindustan Times that, to deal with it, the NHRCL requested the state revenue department to give exemptions for the project in January.

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On May 9, 2017 some amendment was made in section 22A of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code (MLRC) that says the state is empowered to acquire grazing land for public as well as private projects. However, it needs prior approval of the gram sabhas as per Panchayats (Extension of the Scheduled Areas) or PESA Act that regulates the grazing land. The fifth schedule of the Constitution only empowers the governor to take such a decision.

Having the power to take final call on such cases, “the governor can exempt the bullet train project from obtaining mandatory approvals as a special case,” the revenue official said to Hindustan Times. The official further told that if the grazing land is purchased with mutual understanding for vital government project then no prior sanction is needed. The official told this with reference to an another amendment made in section 36A of the MLR Code.

On September 14, 2017 PM Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for the ₹1.08 lakh crore (17 billion dollar) for the India’s first high-speed rail line that connects Mumbai and Ahmedabad.