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Bullet Train Project

Memorandum against the Bullet Train Project

Date: 15-10-2018 

To
1. Shri Shinichi Kitaoka
The President
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
1-6th floor, Nibancho Center Building,
5-25 Niban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8012, Japan

2. Junichi Yamada
Board Member, JICA &
Incharge of South Asia Department
1-6th floor, Nibancho Center Building,
5-25 Niban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8012, Japan

3. The JICA representative (India)
16th Floor, Hindustan Times House,
18-20, Kasturba Gandhi Marg,
New Delhi - 110001. INDIA

 Subject: Bullet Train affected farmers from Maharashtra and Gujarat adopt resolution in presence of representatives from various political parties, Farmers organisations, and other Human rights organizations.

Sirs,
The affected farmers, adivasis (indigenous people) and other affected persons came together today in Delhi at a Jan Manch (peoples’ forum) jointly organised with Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan (a group of organisations working on land and livelihood rights of people) at Mavlankar Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi.

Political parties viz. – Indian National Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi Party, Janta Dal (Secular), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India(M), Communist Party of India (ML), Aam Aadmi Party, Janata Dal (Loktantrik), SUCI, Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana, Rshtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, were represented by their senior members.

During the Jan Manch affected people presented their concerns and experiences regarding implementation of the Mumbai – Ahmedabad High Speed Railway project (popularly known as Bullet Train).

The major issues highlighted during the Jan Manch were that the JICA guidelines for Environmental and Social Considerations are being consistently flouted by the project implementers. As per the said Guidelines, JICA is to assure fairness to the socially vulnerable, reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, reduce the gap among various regions, ensure democratic decision making and information transparency and most importantly, respect for human rights.  However, all these are being violated as listed below:
1. The acquisition of land for the Project is taking place forcibly and thus by disregarding the Human rights of the affected population. The excessive use of police force at all levels – during consultations, during land measurement surveys, discussions etc. vitiates the atmosphere and puts tremendous pressure on the affected population.

2. In Maharashtra, despite the stated position that land will be obtained only through a process of mutual negotiation and that joint measurement of land will take place only after the affected person assents in writing, in reality, a process of forcible take-over is taking place.  In Village Kotbi (Palghar district), Notices for Joint Survey of land were issued to people on 5/10/2018 despite the fact that most of them had not given their consent in writing for the same.

3. The JICA guidelines with respect to Indigenous Peoples are being violated.  The JICA guidelines specifically mention that the rights of the Indigenous People in relation to land and resources in accordance with the spirit of the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples shall be respected. Art 10 of the Declaration states that Indigenous People shall not be forcibly removed from their land.  Whatever be the reason, no relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous People concerned. Also, viable Alternatives are to be explored.  However, all these safeguards are being violated in the Scheduled Area (predominantly inhabited by indigenous people) through which the Bullet Train passes.  India may not be a signatory to the UN Declaration, but for JICA, failing to fulfill the provisions of the UN Declaration is a non-negotiable.

4. Environmental and Social Consultations as mandated by the JICA guidelines are carried out in a manner as to ensure that people are unable to participate in an informed manner:
a. The consultations are announced at a very short notice to the concerned stakeholders. The advance notice period has varied from 24 hours (1 day) to a few weeks.
b. There is no coherent approach to announcement of stakeholder consultations. At times they are announced for district level and sometimes they are conducted at Taluka levels.
c. There is no clarification to the stakeholders invited to the consultation whether they should represent on Social concerns or on Environmental issues. In fact, purposely confusions are created. Different public advertisements are published by NHRSCL at same venue and same timing, but for different purpose.
d. In case of Environmental Consultations the Supplementary EIA copies are kept for public viewing at different places which are hundreds of kms away at offices of NHRSCL. The nearest place is the District Collector office, which in some cases is about 30 kms away. Even these were not made available during consultations in most districts of Gujarat.
e. Most of the reports are available in the English language, while they should be made available in the local vernacular language for the public to be able to read through and understand, and subsequently participate through an informed representation.
f. Farmers/ affected indigenous population (who are mostly illiterate or semi-literate) are disallowed to raise questions/queries.
g. Environmental activists/experts are deliberately shunned out of the consultation venue with use of police force. This is violation of basic human rights of the people. And stakeholders are left with no choice to consult or assist during the consultation.
h. Even farmers and local civil society organisations and other social/environment groups are kept out of the process.
i. Elected representatives who can potentially raise uncomfortable queries regarding the project are man-handled and taken away before the start of consultations. The Surat consultation is one such example.
j. The queries raised during the consultations are very casually addressed and there is no written response to the submissions or oral queries raised at the consultations.
k. The minutes of the consultations are yet to be made public. Neither has the video documentation been made public. These are necessary for a transparent process. Letters seeking copies of the minutes are yet to be responded to.
l. In Maharashtra the consultations on 2/5/2018 and 2/6/2018 in Palghar district were organised but cancelled by the district administration itself due to lack of proper organising and non-availability of necessary information/documents respectively NO consultation has been held subsequently. However, the district administration has sent a report to the concerned authorities that the Public Hearing has been completed.   This is a blatant lie and misrepresentation of facts.
m. As if it was not enough the recent announcement for the Stakeholder consultations for districts of Navsari and Valsad (both in the state of Gujarat), went one step further. They published invitation in local newspapers for the Consultations specifically mentions that ‘unauthorized people would not be allowed at the consultation’. We fail to understand what criteria are prescribed under JICA guidelines to segregate attending stakeholders into authorized and unauthorized categories
n. From the manner in which the stakeholder consultations are conducted it appears that these are just paper arrangements, with no serious concern to the society and environment seems that in the case of these consultations for the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail project, Participation, Transparency, Respect for basic Human Rights of people etc. are just words to be bandied around, but not seriously considered
o. Trampling of basic Human Rights through police force seems to be a part and parcel of the conducting of stakeholder consultations.
p. It be noted that at several places due to the apprehensions of affected people arising out of the high-handed and opaque functioning for the consultation the atmosphere was vitiated, and the consultations had to be postponed/rescheduled.

5. JICA’s guidelines also lay down that the intervention must reduce the gap between rich and poor and among various regions.  We fail to understand how this is being addressed through this Project.  The Bullet train will be accessed by only a miniscule percentage of the entire population.  The needs of the poor and the middle class will not be met by the bullet train.  In fact, the opportunity cost of the expense incurred on the Bullet Train, will impact the availability of funds for social sector spending in the field of health, education etc.  The transportation needs of the poor and the middle class will be met if the large outlay on the Bullet Train will be used for the modernization of the present rail system including increasing safety standards and improving facilities.  Regional imbalances are not being reduced by the Bullet Train either.

6. The JICA guidelines state that JICA will actively support projects that promote environmental conservation and to projects that contribute to global environment eg. attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  However, the claim that the Bullet train will be “clean and green” has also not been substantiated in the light of “embedded emissions” of CO2 and other pollutants, energy-intensive machinery and construction, per-passenger-Km energy consumption etc.

The Jan Manch today resolved to continue its opposition to the proposed Bullet Train project. All the attending political parties who came to show their support and solidarity with farmers, indigenous people and other project affected people have endorsed their support to the affected population.

We request a personal hearing from the JICA team at the earliest.

Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,
Endorsed by:
D P Tripathi, Nationalist Congress Party
Danish Ali, Janta Dal (Secular)
Somnath Bharti, Aam Aadmi Party
Manishankar Aiyar, Indian National Congress
Nawalkishore, Rashtriya Janta Dal
Javed Ali, Samajwadi Party
Raagesh, Communist Party of India (Marxist)
D. Raja, Communist Party of India
Raju Shetty, Shetkari Swabhiman Sangathana 
V. M. Singh, Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan
Prem Singh, Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist)
Dr. Suraj Yadav, Loktantrik Janata Dal

 
NAPM Backgrounder

Bhumi Adhikar Andolan submitted Memorandum signed by representatives of 12 major political parties to JICA, reiterates gross violations in Bullet Train Project

Farmers, Adivasis and other affected communities demanded scrapping of the project, alleged coercion and impingement on their democratic rights

Major political parties extended their support and solidarity to the people fighting against the project

New Delhi | October 30, 2018: While PM Modi have gone on to visit Japan and will be discussing various strategic projects with the Prime Minister of Japan including the controversial Bullet Train project, the farmers, adivasis and other affected communities of proposed Bullet Train project reiterates demand for scrapping the project and submitted the memorandum to JICA with details of gross violations of their guidelines. 

Bullet Train project is an ambitious project where PM Modi is believed to be taking personal interest and promoting it falsely as a developmental project for people of the country. The socio-economic angle of the project has been much debated in public forums by various academicians and activists. The impact will be irreversible for Indian economy as well as the environment. The farmers are losing land not only in Bullet Train Project but various other highway projects when there is already an Indian Railway line going parallel to the alignment of Bullet Train. 

“In the name of infrastructure development, the government is attracting foreign investment. But the question remains that at the cost of whom are these projects being initiated?”, rightly pointed out by Ulka Mahajan of Sarvahara Jan Andolan. She also articulated the peoples’ frustrations while stating that the it’s the common people, the farmers of the country who carry the brunt of such “development” projects. She stated that the need of the hour is to remove fear, hunger, poverty and the divisive politics from the country instead of such pointless, so called, development projects. 

The Modi Govt. diluted the law to acquire land denying the consent and social impact assessment provisions which are laid out in the central land acquisition act of 2013. Even after being tagged as a national project, the state laws are being used to subvert the democratic rights of people of Gujarat and Maharashtra state using powers of majority in Gujarat assembly. 

The public consultations cannot be more farcical than ever. In the name of public consultations, officials intentionally put out notifications just 24 hours before the consultations to prevent the people’s voices and critics of the project. The people were deliberately classified as authorized and unauthorized for the consultations and were prevent with the use of police forces. 

Over 12 major political parties have extended their full support and solidarity with the people of both the States against the project. Earlier during the Jan Manch in Delhi held this month, political parties termed the project anti-people, anti-farmer, and anti-worker in nature. The project is only facilitating few rich conglomerates. The need of the hour is to invest in the Indian Railways which actually caters to the larger public unlike the Bullet Train. When the fundamental infrastructure is not yet in place, a project like this for a small distance is unjustified and is a distortion of people-centered development.

The Japan Govt. and JICA must listen to the people of India and stop funding the project to protect the environment, and democratic rights of the people. The impact of the said project will be irreversible and the people of India strongly believes a country like Japan which is already facing the wrath of nuclear warfare will not want destruction of such massive scale to be written under their name.

Frontier
Nov 1, 2018