“WE DON’T WANT THE BULLET TRAIN,”
FARMERS SPEAK OUT LOUD AND CLEAR.
IS THE NATION LISTENING?
10 May 2018, Bharuch (Gujarat): Farmers who are going to lose their land for the much publicised Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project staged a walk-out from the Public Consultation around Environmental and Social Impacts of the project organised by National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited and Deputy Collector of Bharuch chairing the process in Ambedkar Hall today.
This is the second time in one-week that farmers have unanimously rejected the project at a Public Consultation. On 2 May 2018, farmers and adivasis of Palgarh, Maharashtra protested for more than 3 hours at the venue of the Public Consultation in Collector’s Office, Palgarh. The Collector had to cancel the Public Consultation.
It is interesting to note that the government does not even need to consult the public when it comes to linear projects (like Bullet Trains and Highways/Expressways) according to law but was forced to undertake this public consultation as it was a mandatory requirement to get adequate loans and funding from Japan International Cooperation Agency. Now it is left to be seen whether JICA still funds the project even after the Indian government failed to get consent of the communities. If it does, we will know that mechanisms of social protection are nothing but sham in international financial institutions.
Even though the bullet train and Mumbai-Ahmedabad expressway projects are so-called linear projects, they are set to have tremendous impact on rural, agrarian, pastoral and indigenous communities who inhabit these lands for centuries. In a typical neo-capitalist strategy, these two projects will reshape the geography of these regions according to needs of the urban-consumer market and much to the loss of life, livelihood, food and other securities for future generations of communities who inhabit these pristine regions. It will also cause major loss of forest cover, thus affecting biodiversity and ecological balance.
Prime Minister Modi is trying to advertise these projects as highlighting India’s development whereas the truth is that the 1.1 lakh crore project will cater only to a miniscule privileged elite whereas rest of the railway system in India used by majority of Indians will be left to rot. India is taking 80% of the money needed to build this single project from Japan as a loan that will be borne by the overburdened tax-payers of the country.
The farmers in Bharuch were irked as twice consecutively the government-administration has tried to organise this public consultation on a very short notice. The last time it tried to organise public consultations in Baroda and Bharuch on the same day and notified the general public about it only a day or two in advance so as to ensure minimum participation by communities who are supposed to be consulted.
Just like Palgarh, farmers of Gujarat want the Bharuch Public Consultation to be declared ‘cancelled’ as every farmer or landowner walked out of the meeting amidst heavy presence of police and all tactics to intimidate people from speaking out at this event.