Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has announced a “review” of the bullet train project to start bullet train by 2022, sending out signals of uncertainty.

Problems faced

Controversy is not new for India’s bullet train. From its inception, the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), the body implementing the project, has been facing controversies over land acquisition in tribal-dominated areas, and cases filed by farmers in court. There is fundamental opposition to the idea of a Rs 1.1 lakh crore train corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad — even though the project is being funded by an 80% loan from Japan.

Progress made

Even so, the project has made some headway. The initial plan was to complete the land acquisition process by December 2018; this strategy was, however, revised to link land acquisition to tender requirements. The implementing company now says it is on course to do a trial run between Surat and Bilimora in Gujarat in August 2022, and to open the full service to the public around December 2023. NHSRCL officials say they are hopeful of getting most of the land required for the project by the time tenders are finalised in mid-2020.

How much land has been acquired?

The project needs land in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and a little in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. Of the total 1,380 hectares required, 705 hectares have already been acquired.

Mumbai to Ahmedabad: Bullet train proposed route

How can the acquisition process be expedited?

NHSRCL has adopted the strategy of land acquisition by consent, and not by invoking the various laws that empower government agencies to acquire land for public purposes. The provisions of the central Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, would have allowed the linear project to acquire land even without the consent of certain parties, if needed, against the payment of compensation. But the company is not looking to invoke such provisions, officials said.

Source: The Indian Express

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