The Mumbai-Ahmadabad Bullet Train project has hit a major roadblock as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – the agency funding 80 percent of the project – has refused to release any further payments till the land acquisition issues are resolved.
The High-Speed Rail Project, among Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most ambitious ventures since taking office, is heavily dependent on JICA, which will provide the Rs 80,000 crore out of the Rs 1 lakh crore project cost.
Update: Official statement from NHSRCL denying the stoppage of funding by JICA, received after the article was published, has been appended at the end of the article.
So far, the agency has only released Rs 125 crore and the project is already expected to miss its 2022 deadline by over a year.
The entire high-speed rail corridor requires 1,434 hectares of land, of which 353 hectares is in Maharashtra and the rest in Gujarat – most of which is privately owned.
The National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHRCL), the nodal body responsible for implementing the project, has been unable make any headway in several areas Gujarat and Maharashtra where farmers have opposed the project over compensation for land acquisition or access to other basic amenities.
The venture received a major setback last week when nearly 1,000 farmers submitted separate affidavits to Gujarat High Court opposing the land acquisition for the project.
JICA reportedly decided to stall funding five days after Anandvardhan Yagnik, the advocate representing farmers in Gujarat High Court, sent a letter to Japan’s Ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu and Chief Representative of JICA India Office, Katsuo Matsumoto, demanding the agency’s intervention in the matter.
In the letter, the advocate claimed that the government was overlooking social and environmental factors while acquiring land for the project and requested the agency to “withhold any instalment to be given to the Government of India” till the guidelines were complied with.
“The recent developments have miffed the Japanese agency. JICA, which is funding the project, has refused to release further instalments. The PMO has taken note of it and has ordered to form a special committee to look into it,” a senior Finance Ministry official told The New Indian Express.
According to the official, the committee will have members from NITI Aayog and Finance Ministry and senior officials from both the Gujarat and Maharashtra governments.
Experts say that the temporary freeze in funding may not be enough to shut down the project altogether, but could drastically impact its timeline and costs.
“The fund issue is a big problem now. JICA has not released the scheduled funds. They have asked to settle the farmers’ protest first. This will pose a problem and will delay the project further. Even the state governments are facing a problem with funding. The Finance Ministry has already hinted that there is no room to increase the compensation to farmers,” another Finance Ministry official told the daily.
Meanwhile, other projects funded by JICA in Maharashtra like Mumbai Samruddhi corridor, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL), the Navi Mumbai greenfield airport won’t be affected due to the development.
Formed on October 1, 2003, JICA is a governmental agency that coordinates official development assistance for the government of Japan. Its aim is to “contribute to the promotion of international cooperation as well as the sound development of Japanese and global economy by supporting the socioeconomic development, recovery or economic stability of developing regions”.
Statement from NHSRCL:
The nodal agency has issued a statement denying any changes or stoppage in payments from JICA.
— NHSRCL (@nhsrcl) September 25, 2018
Note: The update was received after the article was published. The article has therefore been edited to include the same.
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