Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel has accused the Gujarat government of implementing a “diluted” version of the Land Acquisition Act for land acquisition for the bullet-train project and doing away with farmers’ consent and impact assessment.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, released to the media on Wednesday, Patel sought his intervention and called for the implementation of the 2013 Act in letter and spirit, saying that any deviation will “result in grave injustice to the farmers and farm labourers of Gujarat”.
“Our objective is not to obstruct the project. But in the process of building a bullet train, we can’t bulldoze the constitutional rights of farmers. I sincerely hope you will have the matter examined and the needful will be done at the earliest,” he added.
Noting that the central government was to implement the high-speed rail (bullet train) project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, Patel said that the National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC) along with district officials was acquiring agricultural land from farmers across various districts in southern Gujarat.
He said that farmers representatives had complained that the rules and procedures under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 were not being adhered to.
Patel said that the public consultation process under the Act must be carried out through sufficient notice and adequate publicity.
“However, farmer groups have raised objections that such meetings are being conducted barely on a day’s notice without appropriate publicity. This defeats the very purpose of the consultation process,” the Congress leader said.
Patel, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, said it was “extremely unfortunate” that the Gujarat government was carrying out the entire exercise under a diluted version of the 2013 Act, which in effect runs contrary to the law passed by Parliament.
“Under the Gujarat government’s regulations, the need for mandatory consent of farmers and social impact assessment has been done away with,” he said.
The Congress leader said that the essence of the farmer’s right to his or her land under the 2013 Act rests on the pillars of consent and impact assessment report. “By doing away with these processes, I am afraid that the entire land acquisition process may descend to mere tokenism.”
Noting that the rights of farmers and farm labourers over agricultural land have for long been trampled upon by large and powerful interests, Patel said that Parliament had passed the 2013 Act to defend their rights.
“I request you to ensure that the 2013 Act is implemented in letter and spirit for the said acquisition,” he wrote in the letter to Modi.