Maha’s new government will put the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail project on the fast track, but hurdles remain

Maharashtra’s new government, in which the Bharatiya Janata party is a partner, is set to finally fast-track Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-speed rail corridor project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. The focus is on acquiring about 150 hectares of pending land in Maharashtra.

Along with this, the new government will also work closely with the Center to commence activity on the already acquired lands in the state as works have commenced on the entire 352 km stretch located in Gujarat as well as in Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

“The project deadline has been pushed back by at least three years from 2023 to the end of 2026 due to the attitude of the government of Uddhav Thackeray since 2019. So much so that the Prime Minister had lastly ordered the operationalization of the high-speed corridor. in Gujarat first, without waiting for Maharashtra. Now we hope that work will speed up on the whole stretch,” a senior government official closely associated with the project told News18.

The Prime Minister, during a PRAGATI review meeting in November 2020, had asked the government of Uddhav Thackeray to acquire and hand over all the land needed for the project by April 30, 2021. But this did not served for nothing.

Delays in Maharashtra

The Thackeray government had called the project a “vanity” and said it was not its priority, saying there was already good rail connectivity between Mumbai and Ahmedabad and said such a high-speed rail corridor would be actually cheaper between Mumbai and Nagpur. . This has led to delays in land acquisition in Maharashtra.

Example: The total project requires 1,396 hectares of land, of which approximately 298 hectares are in Maharashtra. The rest of the required land in Gujarat (954 hectares) and D&N Haveli (8 hectares) has already been acquired last year and works have started on the entire section including station designs. The process limped off in Maharashtra.

Until April, only 150 hectares out of the required 298 hectares had been acquired in Maharashtra. This is despite the state government Devendra Fadnavis assuring the Prime Minister at a PRAGATI review meeting in 2018 that all land required for the project would be acquired by 2019. But the state government changed in 2019.

Last August, the Center told Parliament that it had no revised deadline for the completion of the project and blamed the excessive delay on the Maharashtra government. “The revised schedule for the completion of the project can be set after the acquisition of a full piece of land in Maharashtra,” the government had informed parliament.

Palgar’s Challenge

About 108 km of the project alignment passes through Palghar where there is considerable public resistance in the villages to land acquisition. Last year, the National High-Speed ​​Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) decided to appoint an agency or consultant for “Communication Management and Land Acquisition Facilitation for Palghar District”, where nine villages opposed giving up their land for the project.

The agency will communicate details of the project and “its government’s offer or benefits to stakeholders and communicate to NHSRCL any weak points or stakeholder responses”. The agency will also assist NHSRCL and the government of Maharashtra to facilitate the various land acquisition activities for the project.

This will involve obtaining the consent of the gram sabhas in the nine villages in question who “must be constantly persuaded and persuaded to accept the project and give their consent for the project,” the document states. All nine villages fall under the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas Act.

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Jose P. Rogers