Mumbai: Activists protesting against the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project have written to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) asking it to seriously consider the environmental hazards and alleged human rights violations during the implementation of the ₹1.08 lakh crore train project. The way stakeholder consultations for the proposed high-speed rail project are continuing, they would reflect adversely on Japan’s commitments to respect human rights and concerns for the environment, the activists wrote to Shinichi Kitaoka, president of JICA, Junichi Yamada, in-charge of South Asia Department, JICA and other representatives of the agency in India.
In their letter, members of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti said that at several places, due to “high-handed and opaque functioning”, the atmosphere was vitiated and consultations had to be postponed or rescheduled. Further, farmers were not allowed to raise questions while environmental activists were deliberately shunted out of the consultation venue with use of police force. “We have found Japan to be a country with serious commitments to the environment and human rights. All of this would reflect adversely on Japan’s commitments to respect human rights and concern for the environment. It is our request that all the stakeholders’ consultations and environmental consultations be re-conducted ensuring total compliance and respect for human rights,” said Krishnakant Chauhan of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti.
Earlier this month, The Bhumi Adhikar Andolan and Shoshit Jan Andolan, organisations based in Maharashtra and Gujarat, had written to the National Human Rights Commission, demanding an investigation into the detention of Mr. Chauhan, an elected local panchayat member, and Jayeshbhai Patel, a senior activist, among others. The activists were picked up just minutes before a consultation for the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited was held in Surat. Last month, farmers from neighbouring states had gathered at a joint meeting in Surat to oppose land acquisition proceedings for the project. About 312 villages in Gujarat and Maharashtra will have to give up their land, while 7,974 plots belonging to the forest authorities and Railways will have to be acquired for the project.
The high-speed train, with a capacity for 750 passengers, will travel at speeds between 320 km/hour and 350 km/hour and is expected to reduce travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai to three-and-a-half hours or less from the current eight hours. The project is expected to be completed in seven years.