‘Can Kerala afford such debt?’ VD Satheesan writes to Yechury on K-Rail project

Satheesan said it is ironic to note that the Communist party, which is opposed to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed railway, is pushing the semi-high-speed SilverLine project in Kerala.
File photo of VD Satheesan
File photo of VD Satheesan
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Hours ahead of the CPI(M) party congress in its stronghold Kannur district, Leader of Opposition in the Kerala Assembly VD Satheesan on Tuesday, April 5, launched a broadside against the Left government on the K-Rail issue, alleging that it was adopting "an extreme right-wing" stand on the matter. The Congress leader, who is actively campaigning against the CPI(M)-led government's flagship K-Rail initiative also known as SilverLine, warned the ruling party for undermining the people's protest against the multi-crore semi-high speed railway project, saying it will become the "Waterloo" for the party in Kerala.

He also wrote a letter to CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, saying that the people of the state are eager to hear from him on the project which raises serious ideological concerns. Urging the CPI(M) general secretary to intervene in the matter, Satheesan said it is ironic to note that the Communist party, which is opposed to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed railway, is pushing the semi-high-speed SilverLine project in Kerala.

He alleged that the SilverLine project is a clear case of collusion between corporate interests and state power, at the expense of the common people. "It is evident that the stance taken by the LDF government is a sharp deviation from Left ideology to the extreme right," Satheesan said.

Earlier, interacting with media at his official residence, Satheesan alleged that the CPI(M)-led government is following the same right wing path of the Narendra Modi-led Union government on the SilverLine project.

"The BJP government can do this as that party is extreme right," Satheesan said, adding that the Left is only a namesake for the present leadership of the CPI(M) as a policy shift has happened. The Opposition leader said the agitation will grow further as a mass movement and become a "Waterloo" for the CPI(M) in Kerala just as it lost its base in West Bengal after the Nandigram struggle that put an end to the over three-decade old CPI(M) rule in that state.

In 2007, many farmers were killed in police firing during an anti-land acquisition stir in Nandigram. "We support this people's agitation against the SilverLine. Non-bailable cases have been registered against our partymen. The CPI(M) had done the same thing against the people who had protested in Nandigram and Singur. Finally, it became the waterloo for the CPI(M) in West Bengal. SiverLine agitation is going to become waterloo for CPI(M) in Kerala," Satheesan said.

The Paravoor MLA dismissed the CPI(M) allegation that the Congress and the BJP have joined hands to destabilise the Left government in Kerala. "That narrative will not work," he said as top leaders of the CPI(M) landed in Kannur to attend the 23rd party congress of the Left party. The five-day long mega conference of the CPI(M), known as the Party Congress, will begin on Wednesday.

Criticising the BJP's agitation headed by Union Minister V Muraleedharan against the K-Rail project, Satheesan urged the leadership of the saffron party to apprise Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the protests happening in Kerala against the project and persuade him to declare that it will not be sanctioned.

Asked about the purported Maoist posters announcing the outlawed outfit's support to the movement by people opposing the project, Satheesan said his party opposes the ideology of the Naxals but made it clear that they have also got a space in the society.

"We have differences with the Maoists. We are against killing them in planned encounters. Nine Maoists were killed by Pinarayi Vijayan's police through fake encounters," Satheesan alleged. He said there are still some unanswered questions with respect to the proposed SilverLine project that looms large before the state government.

Noting that the state's finances are already in a funk and on the verge of collapsing, Satheesan said the multi-crore project, which the government estimates to cost Rs 64,000 crore, threatens to overburden the already depleted exchequer.

"The Niti Aayog estimates that it will cost Rs 1.5 lakh crore, with experts predicting that it will cost at least Rs 2 lakh crore. Can a cash economy like ours, or a consumer state like Kerala, afford such a massive debt?" he asked.

The Congress leader asked why should Kerala embrace the redundant technology of the standard gauge when the world, including Japan, is shifting to the broad gauge. "Is this a tied condition to the loans from funding agencies like Japanese funding agency JICA," he asked.

In his letter to Yechury, the Opposition leader said apart from being incomplete, there has been a huge amount of data fudging that has been done to show this project as a viable one.

"The preliminary feasibility study, the feasibility study, and the DPR divulge huge manipulations of data in terms of ridership data, cost estimates, and alignment, among others. This plainly demonstrates that the administration is mainly concerned with massive kickbacks from foreign agencies, including the JICA", he alleged.

The 530-km stretch from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod is proposed to be developed by K-Rail -- a joint venture of the Kerala government and the Railway Ministry for developing railway infrastructure in the southern state. Starting from the state capital, SilverLine trains will have stoppages at Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode and Kannur before reaching Kasaragod.

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