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Bullet train project: Gujarat High Court has dismissed a petition seeking to rehabilitate slum

A division bench issued a decision saying that "after careful study of every material, we found no case"

Bullet train project: Gujarat High Court has dismissed a petition seeking to rehabilitate slum

On Tuesday, a division bench of the Gujarat High Court dismissed a public interest lawsuit filed by Ahmedabad-based labour union Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan, which sought to rehabilitate 75 slum dwellers displaced in Ahmedabad for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project.

A division bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice AJ Shastri issued a decision saying that "after careful consideration of every material, we found no case" and that the petitioner "can give representation to the government."

It will be open for the petitioner to "avail any other remedy to ventilate their grievance by putting specific representation in which event the state authorities with sympathetic approach, (can) consider their claim and find out if it fits in any other policy", it said.

The slum houses at JP in Chali, where migrants settled, began in 1991 and developed to 68-70 slum dwellings with a population of 350 by 2021, according to the PIL. The state and railway authorities attempted to evict the people for the bullet train project for the first time in 2018.

According to the petitioner union's counsel Hetvi Patel, the National High Speed Railway Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), which inspected the region in 2018, offered the slum dwellers a verbal guarantee that they would not be required to evacuate the ground unless they were rehabilitated.

According to the petitioner, NHSRCL assigned numbers to 48 slums and photographed inhabitants with their homes, telling them that they would be assigned houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, or the state's affordable housing strategy.

However, no repair was carried out between 2018 and 2021, and the residents remained to live on the site where they had lived for 30 years. The railway administration issued them a collective notice to vacate in seven days in February 2021, after which the residents submitted representations to various authorities. The railway administration began dismantling the settlements on March 15, 2021, displacing 318 people.

The Gujarat High Court, in a June 30 order, directed the Ahmedabad district administration to conduct an exercise in accordance with the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation, and Resettlement (RFCTLARR) Act, 2013, giving all stakeholders a fair opportunity to be heard. In an affidavit, the state claimed that 18 slum dwellers lived on the alignment line of 22 square metres of land "given to NHSRCL."

Following that, the state government argued in court that none of the people are entitled to any benefits under the rehabilitation scheme. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) has stated that it does not have a strategy for slum-dwellers residing on railway land to be rehabilitated. Western Railways also stated that they had no rehabilitation policy in place for them.

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