MUMBAI: Against the backdrop of hurdles in land acquisition, particularly in Maharashtra, for the ambitious bullet train corridor, the Indian Railways has come out with lucrative offers to landholders. These include waiver of stamp duty on land bought within three years, enhanced compensation and imparting skill training to to make them employment ready.
The major demand of the affected villagers, particularly in Palghar district, is promise of employment in Government sector. The makers of bullet train — National High Speed Rail Corridor (NHSRCL) — has rejected this demand, but promised development of the villages with creating jobs.
NHSRCL Managing Director Achal Khare said alternative source of employment would be generated once the project comes up, but providing assured employment may not be feasible.
Khare and the team of visiting officials, along with the district administration, on Sunday asserted that the process of land acquisition in the State, including Palgarh, would be completed by the year-end.
“There were apprehensions and misconceptions in people’s mind. We have managed to clear those issues and win their trust… by December end, we will be able to complete the acquisition process,” said Khare during his visit to Virathan Khurd village, one of the 73 project affected villages. Khare was joined by village sarpanch Rajshri Keni and Dahanu Mayor Bharat Singh Rajput.
Palghar has seen continued agitations over land acquisition with villagers declining to part with their lands for the project and the crisis has also reached the corridors of Delhi.
A senior NHSRCL official involved in the project execution confirmed that 45 villages out of 73 in the district have given their consent to the land acquisition process.
“There were apprehensions that we would be acquiring 200 feet of land when the requirement is only 60 feet. We also engaged Marathi-speaking officials to reach out to them and engage in conversations with them about the project and allay their concerns,” Khare said.
Also the owners who give their property for the bullet train corridor will be getting stamp duty reimbursement for the property they buy within three years of handing over the land.
Sources said the Railways has not set any upper limit for the stamp duty and is willing to pay any amount as long as the property – either land or house – is bought within three years of handing over of the land for the bullet train project.
The NHSRCL has already offered incentives to landowners as well as panchayats to encourage them to give up their land.
NHSRCL is paying four times the circle rate of the land, a 25 per cent bonus on it, and a one-time payment of Rs 5 lakh in Maharashtra. In Gujarat, the compensation under State laws comes to over four times the prevailing price.
On losing a house by giving up the land for the project, the homeowner can either choose an alternative newly-constructed house or take money to buy a house elsewhere at twice the construction cost.
Provisions for a one-time Rs 5 lakh rehabilitation payment to landless agriculture workers, and a one-time Rs 25,000 to employees of shops on land to be acquired have also been made.
NHSRCL has also committed for a service road along the high speed corridor. The 508-km high-speed corridor will connect Ahmedabad with Mumbai, with the train speed expected to touch a peak of 320 kmph.
About 110 km of the corridor passes through Palghar. The Railways and State administration are struggling for more than a year for land acquisition for the project, which inaugurated by jointly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Shinzo Abe last September at Ahmedabad.
The project requires an estimated 300 hectares across 73 villages, affecting about 3,000 people between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
Khare said skill training would be imparted to the people as the project would throw open many opportunities, including the need for drivers. “We will ensure their self-employment,” the bullet train MD said. “Skill training will also include Information Technology, mechanical, electrical, civil, and various other facets of the education, so that the employability quotient of the land-loosers’ children goes up too,” he added.
Apparently indicating the involvement of some elements with vested interests in the land acquisition process, Khare claimed the protest is not from the affected people.
“We have cut the involvement of middle men and hopefully we will get the land issue sorted with their support,” he added.