The Silver Line project, which is to connect Thiruvananthapuram and Kasargod in four hours, has been mired in controversy for years.

Villagers in Kollam protest. A policewoman can be seen controlling a small crowd containing women.Screengrab from Manorama News
news Controversy Monday, December 20, 2021 - 19:25

In a village called Thazhuthala in Kottiyam in Kollam, Kerala, a few people reportedly threatened to die by suicide in protest against the Silver Line semi high-speed rail project of the Kerala government. A Manorama News report said that members of a household threatened to self-immolate, upset by the survey conducted by officials in connection with land acquisition for the project. Politicians and local leaders gathered around to support the villagers and question the state government.

The Silver Line project, which aims to create a rail corridor that could take passengers from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod and vice-versa in four hours, has been mired in controversy for over a decade. It is being implemented by the Kerala Rail Development Corporation (KRDCL) or K-Rail – a joint venture of the Union Railways and the Kerala government. Environmentalists and other activists have been raising several concerns regarding the project, which will displace thousands of families, and which, they fear, poses several environmental hazards. The project's cost – estimated at an amount of Rs 63,914 – has also been pointed out as a major waste of money by opposition parties.

Recently on Facebook, people have been posting a message about boycotting the train which will affect the lives of so many others. They don't want to reach from one end of the state to the other in four hours like this, they posted.

Systra, a French consultancy, did a survey in 2019 and said that the project was financially feasible and submitted the Detailed Project Report (DPR). The state government approved the DPR, and soon after that, the procedure for land acquisition began. The Union government, too, asked the state to hurry up with the land acquisition earlier this year. The haste comes with the need to get foreign funding for the project, which requires the state to have acquired a good amount of the land. More than half of the project cost is expected to come from foreign institutions.

However, later, the Union government refused to back foreign funding. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan still asserted that the government will go ahead with the project, brushing off all opposition as ‘anti-development’. Opposition parties, mainly the Congress-led United Democratic Front, have been holding massive protests against the project for months.  

Read: Kerala’s Silver Line project timeline: When it began and how it became controversial

Watch: TNM explains why Silver Line project is controversial