Kerala’s SilverLine project on pause as staff sent for land acquisition called back

Kerala Silverline
Kerala Silverline
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The ruling Left government in Kerala, which had been defending its move to lay survey stones for a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) study regarding the proposed SilverLine semi-high speed rail corridor, has decided to redeploy all the staff posted for the same. This will temporarily halt the implementation of the ambitious project. According to a government order issued by the revenue department on Sunday, November 27, all the staff posted in land acquisition units for the project “may be called back immediately” and be redeployed to other essential projects.

The order also states that fresh notifications for an SIA study with regard to acquisition of 1,221 hectares of land in several villages of the state for SilverLine may be issued after getting approval for the project from the Railway Board. The decision was welcomed by the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), which has been at the forefront of those opposing the project, by saying that the Left government was withdrawing the plan in phases as it was ashamed to do so in one stroke.

Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly VD Satheesan said that the SilverLine rail corridor cannot be implemented in Kerala under any circumstances. He said that the state government had, till the previous week, been saying that the project would not be withdrawn and now it was withdrawing it in phases as it was “ashamed” to stop it in one go.

"If the decision is to stop the project, it is welcome. If they decide to go ahead with it, the state government will face even more agitations," Satheesan said to reporters. Kerala Industries Minister P Rajeev stated that the government has repeatedly said that it cannot implement the project without the Union government's approval, and that it was the media which was interpreting it one way or the other.

During the laying of the survey stones by the government, the state had witnessed Congress and  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as well as local residents protesting against the project by uprooting the stones and throwing them away. The Congress has been claiming that the project was financially unviable, besides posing a threat to the environment and the homes and livelihoods of thousands of people.

The SilverLine project would cover a 530-kilometre stretch from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod and be developed by K-Rail, a joint venture of the Kerala government and the Ministry of Railways. The semi-high-speed rail line would have 11 stations, and is planned at an estimated cost of around Rs 64,000 crore. The project aims to ease transportation along the entire north and south stretch of Kerala, and reduce the travel time to less than four hours as against 12 to 14 hours at present.

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