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World

REUTERS
June 13, 2018

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India set to miss key target for Japan-backed bullet train project

PALGHAR: India is set to miss a December deadline to acquire land for a Japan-backed $17 billion bullet train project following protests by fruit growers, government officials said, likely delaying one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most ambitious projects.

Modi’s office is now monitoring the project week-to-week, as Indian officials seek to reassure Tokyo that the hurdles can be overcome through intense negotiations with sapota and mango growers in the western state of Maharashtra.

Protests, backed by local politicians, have flared up in recent months against attempts to secure sections of a 108-km (67-mile) stretch, which is around one-fifth of the entire bullet train corridor connecting Mumbai with Ahmedabad, the largest commercial city in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. “I’ve worked hard for three decades to develop this plantation, and they are asking me to hand over this land,” sapota farmer Dashrat Purav, 62, said as he showed his orchard in the town of Palghar, a three-hour-drive north of Mumbai.

“I haven’t worked hard to surrender land for the project. I did that for my children. “Purav said he would sell his land only if at least one of his two unemployed sons was promised a government job. Protests against land acquisitions are common in India, where tens of millions of farmers till small holdings. A planned $44 billion refinery to be run by a consortium including Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil producer, is also struggling to secure land in Maharashtra.

“Land acquisition for any project is complex in India,” said Dhananjay Kumar, spokesman for the National High Speed Rail Corp Ltd (NHSRCL) that is overseeing the project. “Here also we are facing difficulty because of so much resistance.”

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