While responding to the public interest litigation (PIL), filed by Ahmedabad-based trade union Bandhkaam Mazdoor Sangathan on rehabilitation of 75 slum dwellers evicted for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, the state, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and bullet train authorities have submitted before the Gujarat High Court that the evicted persons cannot be considered as “project-affected” and are not entitled to benefits under the resettlement and rehabilitation policy.
The trade union had highlighted that slum at JP ni Chali in Sabarmati area came into existence in 1991 with migrants from different districts and had grown to 68-70 slum dwellings with a population of 350 by 2021
In 2018, National High Speed Railway Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) surveyed the area and verbally assured to the slum dwellers that they will be rehabilitated.. However, between 2018 and 2021, no rehabilitation process was carried out.
On March 15 this year, after issuing a common notice the railway administration started demolishing the settlements, leaving 318 persons homeless.
In an order of June 30, the Gujarat HC instructed the Ahmedabad district administration to undertake an exercise as per the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLARR) Act, 2013 to determine the eligibility and entitlement of rehabilitation, while giving a fair opportunity of hearing to all stakeholders. The state in an affidavit submitted that 18 slum dwellers were existing on the alignment line of 22 square metres of land that was “given to NHSRCL”.
Now, the state government, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and Western Railways , have submitted that they do not have any rehabilitation policy for slum dwellers living on railway land
NHSRCL, the executing authority of the bullet train project, has submitted that 18 hutments will not be liable for rehabilitation as they were not residing at the site before cut-off date 2017, which is as per the NHSRCL policy, necessary to be eligible for the particular rehabilitation policy.
State’s counsel, government pleader Manisha Shah, submitted that the land “belongs to railway authority which it is giving to NHSRCL” and that the provisions of RFCTLARR “says that question of rehabilitation comes when land is acquired”.
However, the petitioner’s advocate pointed out that three others — one running a tea stall and two others running small stalls — 50 metres away from the slum dwellings, were deemed eligible for resettlement and rehabilitation policy by the NHSRCL, arguing that then the 18 hutments should also be eligible for the benefits.
The court is expected to take up the matter for further hearing on November 18.