On 29 July 2016, Malayala Manorama republished a news report that had appeared on its pages a hundred years ago. It interestingly read as follows: “More than 1000 people have petitioned the Madras Government to consider their request to merge Kasaragod Taluk with Malayaam (Malabar) district.”
Ironically, a century later, the people of Kasaragod -now a district in its own right in Kerala- are still fighting against the authorities’ seeming negligence of their native soil.
Kasargod natives are now in the midst of a collective attempt to grab the state government’s attention to the fact that their district too is part and parcel of God’s Own Country.
To cite an example of reported negligence, recently when Kerala announced its high speed rail project -found feasible by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation- Kasargodians –much to their chagrin- realized that the project was to be implemented only up to Kannur.
And this is not the first time it has happened. That’s when a group of indignant youngsters came together to form a Facebook group called ‘Kasaragodinoridam’ (A Space for Kasargod) in order to ensure their rightful place on the developmental map of Kerala.
Through this group, they carry out a vigorous campaign titled: “Whatever be my politics, I too join against negligence shown to Kasaragod.”
As part of this novel protest, one of the administrators of this group on Facebook, Muhammed Jaseem sent a request –on behalf of all Kasargodians- to DMRC Chairman E Sreedharan on July 26, seeking an extension of the high speed railway to include Kasaragod too.
Initially, the project proposal had planned for a rail-corridor extending from Thiruvananthapuram right up to Mangaluru. It was only later that it was curtailed till just Kannur.
Sreedharan did promptly respond to this unusual request, but only to clarify that the said project would not be deemed a profitable venture, if extended only upto Kasargod.
“The traffic studies carried out by the DMRC have revealed that there will be no significant ridership, if the line is extended from Kannur to Kasaragod -a distance of 80 kms. The cost involved will be disproportionate to the benefits that would accrue. Further, the Karnataka government has not shown any interest in extending this line up to Mangaluru. Therefore, unless there is a possibility to extend this line up to Mangalore, there is no point in taking the line to Kasaragod which will involve an additional cost of Rs 14, 400 crores,” E Sreedharan said in his reply.
This has however only agitated the protestors further, as they ponder over the unsaid query, “Is not Kasaragod a part of Kerala?”
“For the authorities, Kasaragod is just a place meant for punishment postings or transfers, or maybe to flag off an occasional Kerala Yatra by politicians,” fumes Naufal Rahman, one of the administrators of the group, while speaking to The News Minute.
Kasaragod MLA NA Nellikkunnu alleges that it is the state government that is responsible for such blatant show of negligence vis-à-vis the northernmost district of Kerala.
“They say it would cost around Rs 1,20000 crores for the project to be implemented till Kannur, and that a few more crores would have to be spent, if extended up to Kasaragod. Would that actually be much of a loss to the exchequer?” he asks.
The group -comprising 16346 members- has now approached state Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, asking him to intervene in the matter. The members are also critical of their elected representatives for not doing the needful, in terms of developmental measures for their district.
Naufal goes on to allege that even basic amenities are not catered for here. Kasaragod –he believes- might be the only town in Kerala without proper traffic signals, an efficient water distribution system, good hospitals, with people having to traverse around 55 kilometres to Mangalore to get treated.
A social activist hailing from Kasaragod is also quick to add, “We speak about High Speed Railways, but Kasaragod is the only district in Kerala where the Rajadhani train does not have a stop. It’s a different matter that the condition of its railway station is really pathetic.”
The state government had in 2012 constituted the Prabhakaran Commission to draw up a development package for the district. Based on its recommendations, the State Planning Commission had approved a package of Rs 11,123 crores for various developmental projects in March 2013, but nothing has actually happened on ground.
It was in the same year that the then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had laid the foundation stone for a medical college in Badiadukka village. After a prolonged battle by local activists, construction finally began on January 2016, but it seems to have hit a roadblock once again.
To this, Nellikkunnu clarifies: “The construction of the proposed medical college is on in full swing. The delay is purely technical and work will soon resume.”
The News Minute had earlier also reported on the district developmental woes.
Kasaragod was earlier part of the South Canara district of the Madras Presidency under the British, but it continued to be included in Dakshina Kannada district in Karnataka after Independence. Present-day Udupi and Dakshina Kannada (in coastal Karnataka) and Kasargod districts with its shared history had then formed Tulunadu.
It was only in 1956 when the states were reorganized on linguistic lines, that Kasargod was merged with Kerala.