A status check on LDF govt's 2016 infrastructure promises for Kerala

While some of the projects are progressing and nearing completion, a few ambitious projects are in limbo.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan
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From housing projects for the landless to a host of development projects, the Left Democratic Front (LDF) made a slew of promises in its 2016 Assembly election manifesto. In a matter of three weeks, on April 6, Kerala will vote for its next government, and the ruling government led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M) has been actively campaigning in the state.

While it is set to release its 2021 election manifesto, TNM did a status check on how far the LDF government in Kerala has succeeded in implementing major infrastructure promises it announced in 2016.

While most of the projects are actively progressing and almost near completion, a few ambitious projects are still in limbo.

Promise: Houses for landless people

Status: Partially fulfilled

The LDF promised to revive the EMS Housing Scheme by ensuring a house and a toilet for the landless people. The CPI(M)-led front also said that the MN Laksham Veedu Project will be revived within a period of five years. After it came to power, the state government launched the Livelihood Inclusion and Financial Empowerment (LIFE) Mission in 2017, under which houses for 2.19 lakh people have been constructed so far, and the construction of 49,737 houses are ongoing.

While the first phase of the project focussed on completing incomplete houses (52,070 houses), in the second phase, houses were constructed for those who have land (77,235 families).

The third phase focusses on constructing houses for the landless. In February 2019, an apartment complex with 217 flats was inaugurated in Idukki’s Adimali, and 163 landless families presently live there. The construction of 12 similar apartment complexes is underway in the state.

Promise: Make classes from 8 to 12 high-tech.

Status: Progressing

As part of its promise to upgrade school education to an international level, 45,000 classrooms in Kerala have been turned high-tech and 4,752 government and government-aided schools have been made high-tech with broadband connectivity and interactive video conference facilities. Over 1.19 lakh laptops were distributed for class 1 to 12 in the schools. Other equipment like projectors, DSLR cameras, television have also been installed or distributed in the schools.

Promise: Establish a Digital Kerala Network for internet connectivity in houses and commercial establishments.

Status: Partially fulfilled

Through this project, the LDF aimed to make internet connection available, within five years, at houses for Rs 100, at small-scale commercial institutions for Rs 300 and at industrial institutions for Rs 1,000. In February 2021, the state government launched the Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON), a project to provide free internet connectivity to 20 lakh families belonging to the below poverty line (BPL).

The first phase of the project, which has become operational, will provide internet connectivity to 1,000 government institutions including, schools, hospitals, offices, in Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts. However, the connectivity to houses is yet to be facilitated, and work is ongoing for the same.

The Kerala government had made access to the internet a basic right in November 2019.

Promise: Completion of Kochi Metro construction in a time-bound manner.

Status: Progressing

The first phase of the Kochi Metro Rail, jointly funded by the Union and state government, from Aluva to Maharajas College, was completed in 2017. In 2019, the first phase was extended from Maharajas College to Thykoodam. The Pettah station, which is part of the first phase, was opened in September 2020. Construction of the metro stretch from Pettah to SN Junction is underway. It has also been decided to construct a township in Kakkanad as part of Kochi Metro.

Promise: Completion of the natural gas pipeline project.

Status: Almost complete

The Kochi-Manguluru natural gas pipeline project of the Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL), a Central Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, faced much delay before reaching near completion in January this year. The 450-km natural gas pipeline stretches from Kochi — through Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kasargod districts in Kerala — to Mangaluru in Dakshina Kannada district, Karnataka.

The project was started in 2007, and was scheduled to be completed in 2014. However, it hit roadblocks due to political issues, technical shortcomings, and opposition from residents as the pipeline passed through many thickly populated areas especially in northern Kerala. In 2017, many residents in Mukkam of Kozhikode district in Kerala started an anti-GAIL campaign. However, the Kerala government held all-party meetings and resolved the issue.

Out of the 450 km, 414 km of the project has been completed, while works of 99 km of the project from Koottanad in Palakkad to Coimbatore is ongoing.

Promise: Completion of Vizhinjam Harbour Project.

Status: Incomplete

The ambitious Vizhinjam International Transhipment Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport at Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram district is being developed in private-public-partnership and is presently under construction by the Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Ltd. The project was inked by the Oommen Chandy-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government in 2015 at a cost of Rs 7,525 crore.

Completion of the project was one of the major promises of the LDF government in its 2016 election manifesto. As per the initial agreement, the project was estimated to be completed in 1,425 days (by December 2019). However, the construction is yet incomplete. In 2019, the Kerala government extended the deadline to complete the project by October 2020. However, this time period was also not abided by.

According to the state government, the construction of the operational building in Vizhingam has been completed. The construction of the Gas Insulated Substation (GIS) and port switch yard complex, which is part of the second phase, is nearing completion. The works for the third phase, including the construction of the gate complex and related road network, are ongoing. The construction of a 2,200-metre breakwater, which is part of the fourth phase, is also ongoing.

While the Adani group had cited the 2017 Ockhi cyclone disaster and the 2018 Kerala floods as the main reasons for the delay, the COVID-19 induced lockdown further delayed the project.

Recently, the Adani group opted for arbitration to settle the dispute between the Kerala government and the company over the delay in the completion of the project. As per the agreement, the Adani group has to reportedly pay a fine of Rs 12 lakh to the government per day, if the project is not completed within the stipulated time.

Promise: Light metro will be completed in a time-bound manner.

Status: Administrative sanction granted.

Light rapid transit or light metros were proposed for two Kerala cities — Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. In February, the Kerala government gave administrative approval for the proposed project. As per reports, though Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) submitted a detailed project report (DPR) in December 2017, it was only approved by the Kerala Rapid Transit Limited (KRTL) in October 2020. In February this year, the state cabinet, in turn, gave a nod to submit the DPR to the Union government.

Promise: Renovate waterways and inner waterways, and bring the National Waterway 3 in working condition.

Status: Partially completed

The National Waterways 3 or West Coast Canal Project, running through the length of the state from Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod, was one of the pet projects of the state government. It is aimed to create a continuous navigable stretch of waterways. The state government formed a company named Kerala Waterways Infrastructure Limited for this purpose.

The project was partially fulfilled, and in February, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated 168 km of the national waterway from Kollam to Kottapuram and 80 km from Kottapuram to Chavakkad. Sixty-two kilometres of state waterway from Veli in Thiruvananthapuram to Kollam was also inaugurated.

Work on the project in the northern Kerala districts, from Chavakkad to Kozhikode and Malappuram region, is yet to be completed.

Promise: Unifying state and district co-operative bankers into a large-scale Bank of Kerala.

Status: Fulfilled

The Bank of Kerala became functional in November 2019 after merging all district cooperative banks, except Malappuram District Cooperative Bank due to litigation.

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