Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious bullet train project is facing people’s resistance in Maharashtra’s Palghar district where land is to be acquired from the villagers.
The villagers in Palghar are demanding the authorities to give them in writing that they will be provided with basic amenities in return to their nod to the bullet train project.
Ponds, ambulances, solar street lights and doctors are some of the demands villagers want to be met before they allow authorities to acquire their lands, say officials.
About 110 km of the 508 km train corridor passes through Palghar. The project requires an estimated 300 hectares across 73 villages, affecting about 3,000 people, in the stretch.
Land acquisition for the ambitious USD 17 billion bullet train project is being severely opposed by tribals and fruit growers in Palghar district.
However, National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHRCL), the nodal body to implement the project is hoping to overcome the extreme resistance and has tweaked its strategy to ensure the scheduled 2022 launch of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train.
“We have changed our stance. Earlier, we would gather villagers at village chowks to convince them of the good that the project would do. That did not work, so we have decided that we will now target landowners only and ask village heads to give in writing what they want in addition to the compensation for their land,” PTI quoted NHRCL spokesperson Dhananjay Kumar as saying.
Most of the demands of the villagers are not related to their personal needs but to basic necessities such as street lights and ambulances for the entire community and the NHRCL crew is targeting those demands to turn the tide in their favour.
For instance, Mankundsar village in the district had a leaking pond and their demand is a boundary wall for the five hectare pond.
Similarly, Khurd and Vikramgar villages demanded deployment of regular doctors. Another village named Bete asked for an ambulance and solar street lights. Yet another, Kelwa village, asked for regular delivery of medicines.
“We will comply to their demands if they give it to us in writing. The project is going to bring employment and development to the region and we are happy to help them,” said Kumar.
All these demands have been made on the letterhead of the village sarpanches on behalf of the landowners in the villages, a move to ensure probity from both sides.
For NHRCL, the promises made to villagers are key to meeting their deadline for the launch of the project on Independence Day four years later, on August 15, 2022.
(With Inputs from PTI)