The proposed railway line passing through Kodagu district of Karnataka is being opposed tooth and nail by citizen groups. Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated an electrified railway track between Mysuru and Bengaluru on Monday, his visit came amidst tensions in the region. Just a day before, thousands of citizens from Kodagu had gathered at Mysuru's Dasara Exhibition Grounds to protest against the railway line, which would connect Mysuru and Thalssery via Kodagu.
The opposition for the railway line has been vocal and gaining ground for a while now. Activists and the people of Kodagu fear that thousands of trees will be cut down for the project, and also say that it poses a threat to elephants in the region.
The protests intensified on Sunday in the wake of reports that the railway line has been approved by the central government.
History of the proposed railway project linking Kodagu
The mooted project was earlier shelved after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government undertook a preliminary survey in 2011. They concluded that the route would be unprofitable.
But the project was revived at the end of 2011, when a new survey was commissioned by then Union Minister for State Railways KH Muniyappa, after BJPâ€™s BS Yeddyurappa promised to bear 50% of the costs of the proposed railway line.
Citizens protest the proposed railway line through Kodagu || Photograph Courtesy: Kishor Cariappa via Facebook
The survey was approved in 2014 by Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda, part of the newly formed BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre.
In response to questions posed by Mysuru MP Pratap Simha in the Lok Sabha in 2016, the Ministry of Railways confirmed that field survey for a railway line connecting Mysuru-Kushalnagar-Madikeri had been completed; however no timeline was stated for the start of the project.
The new survey was completed despite protests in the district by activists and citizens in 2017.
The first protest against the railway line was held in Madikeri on June 4, 2017 and the second was held at Kutta on August 26, 2017. A change.org petition against the construction of the railway track has also registered over 30,000 signatures.
Photograph Courtesy: Lokesh Kaveriappa via Facebook
Protests gain ground
Now, activism is building against the unpopular project with environmentalists suggesting alternatives to the proposed railway line. â€śThe money being spent on the railway line could be used to protect the environment and help sustain local communities and support coffee and pepper growers in Kodagu. This can be done by providing incentives for maintaining indigenous tree species in private lands and provide subsidies for beekeeping, floriculture and also by setting up industries such as pepper processing plants to provide employment to local people,â€ť said Col Muthanna, President of the Coorg Wildlife Society.
The Coorg Wildlife Society is coordinating the protests against the railway line, supported by the Kodagu Growers Federation, United Kodava Organisation, Save River Cauvery Forum, and several other organisations.
Photograph Courtesy: IG Chinnappa via Facebook
A report by The New Indian Express stated that a Detailed Project Report prepared by Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited was approved by the central government on January 13.
The Karnataka government has written to the central government asking them not to take up projects in the district. "Even though they may have received the green light from the Central Government, both states have to come to a concurrence and only then will the project be approved," said Col. Muthanna, who hopes that they can still convince the central government to drop the project.