UDF leaders said that the project will cause huge financial burden and severe environmental damage to the state and that it would not be beneficial for the common people.

An aerial view of the Kerala state Assembly Image for representation
news Assembly Wednesday, October 13, 2021 - 20:12

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday, October 13, categorically rejected the concerns raised by the opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) against the proposed Silver Line semi-high speed rail project, saying that the over Rs 63,000 crore initiative is inevitable for the infrastructure development of the state and the Left Democratic Front (LDF)-led government has a transparent approach in this regard. Meanwhile, as the motion moved by the UDF in Assembly to hold discussion about the project was rejected, the opposition members staged a walkout.

The opposition members strongly argued in the state Assembly that the mammoth project, also called the K-Rail project, would cause huge financial burden and severe environmental damage to the state and would not be beneficial for common people. Over 20,000 families have to be displaced for the project and the state has to find a whopping amount of Rs 1.24 lakh crore for its implementation, they further charged. The UDF members later staged a walkout as Speaker MB Rajesh denied leave for the motion based on the CM's reply.

Moving a notice seeking an adjournment motion over the issue during the zero hour, the opposition wanted the House to discuss the matter after suspending all its other businesses considering its seriousness. However, CM Pinarayi Vijayan, in his elaborate reply, detailed various benefits of the semi high-speed rail project, proposed between Thiruvananthapuram and Kasaragod districts, and said that it would help reduce congestion and accidents on the state and national highways.

Saying that there is no need for any concern regarding the project, he also claimed that the government was adopting advanced techniques in all aspects of its implementation, from land acquisition to aerial survey. An attractive compensation would be paid to people when their land is acquired for the K-Rail project, up to four times the price of land in rural areas and twice as much in urban areas, he said.

"Rail development is progressing at a slow pace in our country. At present, it takes up to 16 hours to travel from one end of the state to the other. This needs to change...the greatest solution for this is the semi-high speed rail," PM Vijayan told the Assembly.

The opposition’s charge that the project would destroy the economy was "baseless", he said, adding that there is no government anywhere in the world that does not borrow for infrastructure development programmes. "The project is found to affect only 9,314 buildings including houses across the state," he said.

On the concerns of environmental destruction, he said the alignment was designed completely omitting the Western Ghats and similar ecologically sensitive areas. Taking a dig at the opposition, he said the previous UDF government had planned a high speed rail project which would not have been feasible for a state like Kerala.

MLA MK Muneer of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), who moved the notice for the motion, said the opposition was sharing the concerns of common people regarding the project.

Coming down heavily on the Left government and the Chief Minister, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly VD Satheesan said that the K-Rail project was "bulldozing" in the name of development.

"The aerial survey conducted for the project is inaccurate. A comprehensive environmental and social impact study is yet to be conducted," he said, adding that Vijayan's unwillingness to discuss an alternative plan “could not be accepted”.

Read: Kerala’s Rs 63,941 cr Silver Line: A dream corridor or environmental disaster in the making?

Read: Standalone extravaganza’: Green forum urges Kerala govt to stop Silverline rail project

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