‘There is something fishy in the State government’s decision to fix 45 metres as the width for highways in the State.’

Desiyapatha Samrakshana Samithi has accused Transport Minister Aryadan Mohammed of double standards over his statement to have 70-metre-wide national highways across the State.

Addressing a press conference in Kochi on Thursday, Samithi office-bearers C.R. Neelakantan and Hashim Chennampilly produced a copy of a letter Mr. Mohammed purportedly wrote to the PWD Minister and principal secretary in 2010. The letter sought the reduction of Nilambur Bypass’ width from 30 metres to 20 metres. The bypass is a part of the Kozhikode-Nilambur State highway that passes through his constituency. The demand was made to prevent eviction of 15 families in his constituency.

Mr. Neelakantan said the same Minister was now calling for 70-metre-wide national highways, which could lead to eviction of tens of thousands of families.

The Samithi alleged that there was something fishy in the State government’s decision to fix 45 metres as the width for highways in the State.

The move seemed to be a conspiracy by the government and the National Highways Authority of India to safeguard the corrupt agreements reached with a BOT company.

Even the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways had agreed to fix the width at 30 metres, the Samithi said.

Mr. Chennampilly said the three BOT contracts signed with an Andhra Pradesh-based company had provisions for allotting Rs.1,313 crore as grant. The contracts are for executing work on the proposed Mannuthy-Vadakkancherry, Kuttippuram-Vengalam, and Vengalam-Valapattanam stretches of the national highways. Though the grant is enough to complete work on all the three stretches, the company has been authorised to collect an exorbitant toll for 30 years.

Any decision to fix the width of the roads at 30 metres would render the contracts null and void. This would mean that corrupt officials who had accepted bribes from the BOT company would have to return them. That was why it was decided to fix the width at 45 metres despite stiff opposition from the people, Mr. Neelakantan said.

He said four-lane roads of seven metre-width on both sides would be built even if 45 metres were acquired for national highway development. This could be easily accommodated in 30 metres and the remaining 16 acres, left after the 14-metre road, could be used for constructing ancillary facilities, including a median.

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