Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, December 8, seeking the Union government’s sanction for the SilverLine project, a semi-high speed rail corridor. Considered the pet project of the LDF government, the SilverLine project aims to connect Thiruvnanthapuram in the south of Kerala to Kasaragod in the north. In his letter to the PM, Pinarayi stated, “The project will not only benefit the State of Kerala, but also the nation, contributing both to the economy and environment.”
The Union government is yet to clear the project despite SilverLine being included in the National Rail Plan (NRP). Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, however, had expressed concern over the project citing the financial position of the Indian Railways, stated Pinarayi in his letter. In October, the Union government had rejected Kerala’s request to bear financial liability of the foreign loans for the project. In his letter, Pinarayi wrote that the Kerala government had agreed to meet both the land acquisition cost for the project as well as meet liabilities arising from the foreign loans.
“Based on discussions with the Government of India, the Government of Kerala has already agreed to meet the entire land acquisition cost of Rs. 13,700 crores and has agreed in-principle to meet the liability arising from any default on external debt obligation undertaken by the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd (K-Rail) for the project. Without the land acquisition cost, project's equity internal rate of return is 13.55% and hence viable as per the agreement between the Ministry of Railways and the Government of Kerala,” he wrote.
The SilverLine project, however, has been hugely controversial in Kerala, with many including opposition parties, environmentalists and residents raising objections to it. Those protesting against SilverLine have raised environmental, financial and social impact concerns.
Watch TNM’s explainer on the SilverLine project and the controversy over it.