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Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project faces another hurdle as financing agency JICA stops fund release

JICA had agreed to provide nearly Rs 80,000 crore for the High-Speed Rail Project, the cost of which was estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore, but so far, only Rs 125 crore has been released.

Published: 21st September 2018 09:36 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd September 2018 09:15 AM   |  A+A-

Bullet Train

An image of a bullet train used for representational purpose. (File | PTI)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Central government’s ambitious bullet train project is now saddled with a fund crunch, after funding agency Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has refused to release further funds for it. The Japanese agency has demanded that the government first settles the farmers’ protest against the project, forcing the Centre to form a special committee to look into fund hurdles.

JICA had agreed to provide nearly Rs 80,000 crore for the High-Speed Rail Project (HSRP), the cost of which was estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore, but so far, only Rs 125 crore has been released. The project has already been delayed over various issues and its deadline extended by over two years.

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project hit a fresh roadblock recently after a group of farmers approached the Gujarat High Court challenging the land acquisition for it. The farmers’ group had also shot a letter to JICA, citing that the government has overlooked social and environmental concerns while acquiring land for the project.

In their letter, the farmers had requested the agency to “withhold any instalment to be given to the Government of India” till the guidelines are complied with and had invited the Japanese ambassador to Gujarat to understand their plight.

According to official sources, JICA has subsequently stalled the payment.

“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 TNIE.

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.

“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 added.

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