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Bullet train: How mango, ‘chiku’ may stop India’s bullet train

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NEW DELHI: The bullet train project in India is facing a challenge from Mango and sapota (the fruit popularly known as ‘chiku’) growers in Maharashtra who are backed by local politicians. The fruit growers are up in arms protestesting against the proposed acquisition of their land for the bullet train project – unwilling to surrender their land without alternative employment guarantees.

The protests by these farmers stand as a major hindrance for the government and are likely to delay the December deadline for completing all land acquisition formalities for the $17 billion Japan-backed project.

Protests have flared up in recent months against attempts to secure sections of a 108-km (kilometre) stretch, which is around one-fifth of the entire bullet train corridor connecting Mumbai with Ahmedabad, the largest commercial city in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat.

The government has offered to buy land from the farmers at a 25 per cent premium to the market value, along with offering resettlement dues amounting to Rs 5 lakh or 50 per cent of the land value, whichever is higher.

Failure to procure the bullet train land by the deadline would delay disbursal of soft-loans by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), a government development body, which is reviewing the project next month, two senior officials with the state-run Indian Railways told Reuters.

To assuage Japan’s concerns, Indian officials have sought a meeting this month with transport ministry officials in Tokyo, one of the Indian officials said. The government wants the project’s completion target to be advanced by a year to 2022, the 75th year of Independence.

(With Reuters inputs)

Updated: June 13, 2018 — 2:57 pm

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