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Blog Entry# 3630498
Posted: Jul 15 2018 (08:49)

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Last Response: Jul 15 2018 (10:18)
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Jul 15 2018 (08:49)   Godrej’s land predicament revives Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train debate

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Entry# 3630498   News Entry# 345949         Tags   Past Edits
Godrej Group has moved the Bombay High Court challenging the acquisition of 8.6 acres of its sprawling Vikhroli land by the Maharashtra government. 
The prestigious bullet train project, expected to connect Ahmedabad and Mumbai with a two-hour run, is back in the news. This time it has drawn protests from the Godrej Group, which has moved the Bombay High Court challenging the acquisition of 8.6 acres of its sprawling Vikhroli land by the Maharashtra government. 
Godrej is seeking a realignment of the rail route to prevent nearly Rs 500 crore worth of its
precious urban real estate being swallowed up. The company has even offered alternative land, if the National High-Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRC), the nodal agency executing the project, agrees to a realignment. In case there is no compromise, the state government will have to forcibly acquire the land. 
The Godrej resistance has once again highlighted the land acquisition problems. The Gujarat and Maharashtra governments will need to acquire nearly 3,460 acres of linear land for the corridor bringing on a head-on collision with 195 villages in Gujarat and 104 villages in Maharashtra. The 108-kilometre stretch in Maharashtra is among the most fertile and productive farm belts, famous for its fruit plantations. 
Last time, 20 years ago, P&O Australia Ports tried to build a Rs 3,500 crore, the deep-sea port at Vadhavan, near Dahanu, it was met with huge resistance by the orchard-owning Irani community and local fishermen. P&O Ports had to ultimately withdraw with a bloody nose in 1998. 
The Bullet Train project is among the few special ‘development’ icons of the Narendra Modi government. Opting for an all-Japanese high-speed technology ‘Shinkansen’, the project cost has been pegged at $17 billion or around Rs 1.10 lakh crore, 81 per cent of which will be covered by a soft loan with a 20-year moratorium on payments from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Like the housing-for-all and Smart Cities projects, the Bullet Train project has been targeted for completion for 2022, with August 15 booked for the opening ride. 
However, independent estimates are sceptical the completion target will be met. Besides the Godrej challenge, groups of Gujarat farmers have filed five writ petitions in the Gujarat High Court. Despite, a high premium of 25 per cent over the market rate being offered, ground resistance is only increasing. A public hearing by the NHSRC in Palghar was disrupted for the second time, by farmers a few weeks ago.
The first evidence of public anger against the Bullet Train project was seen last September, days after its formal inauguration, when a rusted foot overbridge (FOB) in Mumbai’s heartland of Parel collapsed, killing 23. 
Beyond public perceptions, is the frightfully expensive Bullet Train technology really relevant to Indian conditions? A retired railway engineer, Alok Kumar Verma, associated with R&D for High-Speed Rail (HSR) systems, has pointed out the Bullet Train technology was designed for hilly terrain and not for flat expanses like the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route. More important, can technology that is 8-10 times more expensive than conventional technology be justified? 
Verma says a spend of Rs 1.1 lakh crore on a 534-km rail line gives us an average cost of Rs 205 crore per kilometre, as compared to a conventional high-speed line that costs only Rs 25-30 crore per km or Rs 16,000 crore for the whole route — one-eighth of the cost the bullet train. Further does the saving of less than an hour really justify such a huge additional cost? “While the bullet trains will cover the 534-km distance in two hours and eight minutes, the journey can be completed on a conventional high speed line in two hours and 50 minutes with tilting trains (average speed: 180 km/hr) and three hours and 25 minutes with normal trains (average speed: 150 km/hr),” Verma points out. 
Secondly, instead of sinking over a lakh-crore of rupees on what at best is a showpiece, shouldn’t the much-needed funds be pumped into the existing, creaking railway system to serve a wider set of people? Our railway system transports 25 million people every day, but is desperately in need of more lines and better passenger bogies. India, in nearly seven decades since Independence, added just 13,000 kilometres of rail lines; China, on the other hand, added 14,000 km in just five years from 2006 to 2011. 
The JICA loan for bullet train project is designed to help Japanese companies. Nippon Steel, Sumitomo Metal Corp, Kawasaki Heavy Industries and others will supply 70 per cent of the core components of the rail line. But does a cost-benefit analysis show it will benefit India?

2 Public Posts - Sun Jul 15, 2018

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