While 89 per cent of the land required for the execution of India’s first High-Speed Rail Corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is completed and 13 of the total 27 contract packages have been allocated, the execution of the project seems a distant dream.
The government of India sanctioned the first High-Speed Rail Corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in December 2015 with technical and financial assistance from the government of Japan.
According to the Ministry of Railways all statutory clearances relating to wildlife, the coastal regulation zone (CRZ), and the forest clearance have been obtained for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail (MAHSR) project. Out of the total land requirement, about 1,396 hectares are required of which 1,248 hectares has been acquired.
The project is divided into 27 contract packages including Training Institute at Vadodara. At present, 13 packages have been awarded, three are under evaluation, and notice inviting tender (NIT) has been invited for two packages, according to the Ministry.
Out of the total 352 km length of the project located in Gujarat and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, civil works in 352 km length have started in different phases from December 2020 onwards.
“The land acquisition and rehabilitation activities for the project are being done in accordance with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLARR) Act, 2013 and relevant amendment and Government Resolutions (GR) of the respective State governments,” the Ministry told Lok Sabha early this month.
The cost of the MAHSR Project is ₹1,08,000 crore as of 2015. The Union government has blamed the Maharashtra government for the delay in land acquisition, especially in Maharashtra which has further delayed the finalisation of contracts. The adverse impact of Covid-19 has delayed the execution of the MAHSR project.
The government says that the anticipated increase in cost and time can be fully ascertained only after completion of land acquisition, finalisation of all contracts, and associated timelines. As per the memorandum of understanding (MoU), the government of Japan will provide a loan of 81 per cent at the maximum of the project cost.
The political wrangling between the BJP-led union government and its former alliance Shiv Sena has delayed the project. Shiv Sena Chief and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his new alliance partners Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have shown no urgency to speed up the project work. The Maharashtra government has questioned the utility of the project terming it as a “white elephant”.
State government sources said that the Maharashtra government is not keen on moving ahead with the project as the majority of the leaders feel that the project will not benefit the State in any way and there is no need to connect Mumbai to Ahmedabad via bullet train.