Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project—the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor, commonly known as the Bullet Train project—is facing big hurdles as the financial agency Japan International Cooperation Agency has stopped releasing funds to the project.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was established in 2003 with the aim to “contribute to the promotion of international cooperation as well as the sound development of Japanese and global economy by supporting the socioeconomic development, recovery or economic stability of developing regions”.
The farmers protest over the land acquisition process has perhaps miffed JICA, said a Finance Ministry official to the media, as it has so far released only ₹125 crore, against its agreement to provide nearly ₹80,000 crore for the bullet train project, the cost of which was estimated at ₹ 1 lakh crore. JICA has demanded that the Modi government first settle the farmers’ grievances against the project, claimed an official of the Finance Ministry on the condition of anonymity.
JICA has reportedly taken the decision five days after Anandvardhan Yagnik, an advocate representing farmers in Gujarat High Court, shot off a letter to Japan’s Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu and Chief Representative of JICA India Office, Katsuo Matsumoto, demanding intervention from the agency.
Talking to National Herald over the phone from Ahmedabad, Yagnik said, “Guidelines laid down by JICA categorically say that if any person aggrieved by the land acquisition being carried out on finance from Japan Bank can file a petition formally invoking the guidelines of JICA, and they will depute a team and try to reconcile the situation.” “We are opposed to it because purpose of bullet train is dialectically opposed to the JICA guidelines,” he added.
“I sincerely request your good self to kindly constitute a team and kindly schedule a meeting with the project-affected people and thereby impress upon the Government of India to follow the JICA Guidelines or face the consequences that follow because of non-compliance,” reads the petition filed by Yagnik.
In the month of July, Yagnik had filed a petition in Gujarat High Court on behalf of 1000 farmers with their individual affidavits, demanding fair compensation and social impact assessment of the project.
Jayesh Patel, leader of the Khedut Samaj, an organisation fighting for farmers' rights, blamed the Gujarat government for creating trouble for farmers by amending the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Talking to NH, Patel said farmers are not against the bullet train project but the manner and method by which land acquisition is being carried out. Instead of acquiring farms, government can utilise the existing, expanded route of the railway, he pointed out.
Supporting Patel’s view, Yagnik said that there are eight petitions related to this pending in the Gujarat High Court and all the petitioners have stated that they do not want the bullet train running through their respective farms.
When asked what if JICA agrees to release funds following clarification from the Modi Government, Yagnik said the fight would then be taken to the soil of Japan.
Revealing his plan, Yagnik said, “in October, we are going to Japan. Representatives of 3,800 farmers from Gujarat, three representatives of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and five representatives from Maharashtra region, in all about 20 representatives are going to visit Japan along with myself. We are going the meet JICA, the leader of the Opposition, student leaders and intellectuals in Japan.”
“We are going to hold press conferences in five cities, particularly in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to make a statement where Japan suffered an atom bomb attack, because the bullet train is an atom bomb on us. Because, you are not acquiring our land, you are acquiring our life,” said Yagnik.