For its high-speed corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, Indian Railways is planning to acquire land under the Railways Act, 1989, dodging the stringent provisions of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Senior railway officials say this way, several bottlenecks posed by the latest land acquisition legislation will be avoided.
In 2008, the Railways Act was amended by inserting a new chapter, IV-A, specifying a provision to acquire land for special railway projects. Land acquisition for key projects such as the eastern and western arms of the dedicated freight corridor project, too, was carried out under this special provision.
Though the Land Acquisition Act made an exception for land to be acquired for railway and highway projects by doing away with the 10 per cent cap on non-irrigated multi-cropped land, officials said the Railways Act was preferred, as under this, there was little possibility of litigation.
Vishwas Udgirkar, senior director, Deloitte India, said, "Under the land acquisition Act of 2013, there are stringent conditions for local consent to be secured.
However, under the Railways Act, 1989, you can only challenge the quantum of the compensation, not the acquisition per se. Also, the compensation is much higher under the 2013 Act."
Senior railway officials say about 400 km of the project land is in Gujarat and passes through various tribal belts. They add the good pace of land acquisition for the dedicated freight corridor, as well as the fact that only a few cases of litigation were involved in the project, shows this process is faster and multiple levels of grievance redressal ensure locals are provided adequate compensation.
"JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) monitored the land acquisition process closely and those affected got compensation from the state concerned, as well as from Railways," said a senior official.
The high-speed rail corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, India's first such corridor, will be 546-km long and is expected to involve a cost of about Rs 100 crore a km. Currently, JICA is carrying out feasibility studies for the project and it is expected these will be completed by the end of this financial year.
On this corridor, trains are expected to run at up to 350 km an hour.