New Delhi, Jun 12: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious bullet train project is likely to get delayed as the government is struggling to acquire land in Maharashtra due to following protests by fruit growers, according to a report by Reuters. The protest, backed by regional parties like Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), has intensified in recent months, delaying the acquisition of land for Japan-backed bullet train project.

The government wants to acquire sections of a 108-km stretch in the Dahanu-Palghar-Bhiwandi belt of Maharashtra, which is around one-fifth of the entire bullet train corridor connecting Mumbai with Ahmedabad city in Gujarat. However, the protest by sapota and mango growers in Maharashtra is delaying the process of securing land, the report said. The bullet train will run a total length of 508 km, of which 21 km will be covered in the tunnel under sea.

The delay in procuring land for the bullet train project would delay disbursal of soft-loans by Japan International Cooperation Agency, the report said, quoting two senior officials with the Indian Railways. The bullet train project, planned after discussions between PM Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, is being built with a Rs 88,000-crore soft loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency.

“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 was quoted as saying. “I haven’t worked hard to surrender land for the project. I did that for my children,” he added. The farmer said he would sell his land only if at least one of his two unemployed sons was promised a government job.

Government officials have sought a meeting this month with transport ministry officials in Tokyo to address Japan’s concerns. It also wants the project’s completion target to be advanced by a year to 2022, the 75th year of Independence. Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal last week said the bullet train project is likely to be completed by 2022, a year ahead of its estimated deadline, which is December 2023.

The cost of the total bullet train project is Rs 1.10 trillion, and Japan is giving a loan of Rs. 88,000 crores for the same at a minimal interest of 0.1 per cent, which has to be repaid over 50 years.