Mumbai, (The Hindu): Over 800 farmers from across the State protested at Azad Maidan on Thursday against the Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project.
The government will need to acquire around 850 hectares in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Dadra and Nagar Haveli for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train, being built at a cost 1.08 lakh crore with 88,000 crore financial aid from Japan International Cooperation Agency.
On Thursday, farmers from Raigad, Thane, Nashik, Vidharbha, Konkan, Palghar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Dahanu, Gadhchiroli and Nandurbar came together under the banner of Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, to protest against a notification issued by the Governor which dilutes the power of gram sabhas when it comes to infrastructural projects.
Ulka Mahajan, founder of the Sarvahara Jan Andolan, a Raigad-based farmers’ organisation said, “According to the Provisions of the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act 1996, the gram sabha will exercise self-governance for people living in scheduled areas. But in a notification issued under the provisions of Schedule 5 of the Constitution, the gram sabha cannot intervene in projects termed as ‘very important’ by the government. In such a case, farmers will lose their land and in turn, their livelihood. There has to be proper resettlement and rehabilitation, which has never been implemented by any government in India. So, these farmers have decided that they will not give up their land for any project that is not beneficial to them.”
Dilip Gavit, a farmer from Nandurbar district, said, “I belong to the third generation of my family fighting for our basic rights under the Forest Rights Act, like seeking legal recognition of our right on our lands and livelihood. The Modi government is highlighting man ki baat and not jan ki baat. This government works for millionaires and not tribals. For any government project, our land is taken away from us and we neither get any benefits from such projects nor an alternative source of income.”
Shivaji Dagade, a farmer from Dhule, said his oldest son got married recently and lived in a separate house with his family. “He has now been issued an orange ration card, excluding him from obtaining grains under the Food Security Act. The government has recently issued directions to exclude small families (consisting of two or three members) from the list of Antyodaya card holders, which implies that the amount of grain provided to them would be reduced from 35 kg to 10 kg. We do not want bullet trains. We just want our basic rights,” Mr. Dagade said.
“My question to the government is, ‘Does India need a bullet train today?’ In a country where people are still fighting for basic rights of livelihood and basic amenities like health, education and public transport, who will travel in these high-tech trains,” asked Brian Lobo, of Kashtakari Sangathna, a farmers’ organisation.
Mr. Lobo said the farmers visited the office of Governor C. Vidyasagar Rao. “His secretary has assured us that he would convey our request to the Governor and would reconsider the notifications and provisions.”
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