The ambiguity over reprioritisation of NH projects in Kerala still persists. This has prompted Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to write to Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, urging him to explicitly revoke the move of excluding the state from the priority list.
“As per the notification issued by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on May 2, the NH expansion works in the state had been transferred from high priority 1 (HP-1) to high priority 2 (HP-2) list. Though a fresh notification was issued on May 9, the one that was issued on May 2 has not been withdrawn. Instead, the new notification mandates the state to seek fresh approval for projects in the Priority 2 category. Even the fresh notification gives clear indication that the expansion projects in the state would be delayed. It has been a huge disappointment to people of the state that the Centre has not amended the first notification,” the letter sent on Wednesday says.
The letter further reads, “The preparation of detailed project report (DPR) of all projects under NH-66 had begun way back in 2016 and it is in the concluding phase now. Land acquisition is also in the final phase and stalling the acquisition procedure will be a blow to the people’s expectations. It would even adversely affect the social and financial life of scores of people who have cooperated with the land acquisition.”
The letter also urges the minister to direct NHAI to swiftly complete land acquisition procedures.
The state had opposed the move to remove it from the NH Development priority list which the government alleges was done following a letter written to the Centre by BJP state President PS Sreedharan Pillai.
The Chief Minister had even said that by de-prioritising work on the highways, the BJP was stalling development projects in the state while Finance Minister Thomas Issac said that Sreedharan Pillai was sabotaging highway projects in the state.
In a Facebook post, Issac carried a picture of a letter sent by Sreedharan Pillai to Nitin Gadkari dated September 14, 2018 requesting to stay land acquisition proceedings for NH-66 which passes through the Edappally - Moothakunnam route in Ernakulam district.
Following the controversy and reportedly due to the intervention of Union Minister of State Alphons Kannanthanam, the Centre had cancelled the order.
However, Minister for Public Works G Sudhakaran on May 5 released a letter to K Venkata Ramana, office of special duty to the NHAI chairman stating that the Priority 2 list was not dropped, but could be continued after seeking the approval of NHAI headquarters by providing the status of land acquisition as on May 2 in these projects.
The minister had said that the amendment lacked clarity. He also wrote to Gadkari and to the NHAI chairman to clear the ambiguity and with the demand that all stretches of NH-66 in the state be included in high priority-1 category.
The NHAI had earlier asked the state government to stop all acquisition of land for the NH-66 project. Other than parts of Kasaragod, which had figured on HP-I, works in all other areas of the state were stopped.