Kerala government had recently launched the construction works of the bridge with a width of 7.5 metres shelving the earlier proposals for wider bridge in the region

A political controversy that may have a bearing on electoral fortunes is raging at Pachalam over the proposed rail overbridge.

The State government had recently launched the construction works of the bridge with a width of 7.5 metres shelving the earlier proposals for wider bridge in the region. The authorities cited the increased public pressure and financial constraints of the governments for going in for the smaller version of the bridge.

Delina Pinheiro, the councillor representing the region in the Kochi Corporation, said the residents of the region were not much worried about the width of the bridge. “We, the residents of the region, had been demanding a bridge over the Pachalam railway cross for the past 40 years. We are fed up waiting on either sides of the railway cross for reaching our destinations,” said Ms. Pinheiro.

Considering the popular sentiments, Chief Minister Ommen Chandy took the initiative for beginning the work. Spadework for the project was done by Union Minister K.V. Thomas, Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany and Hibi Eden, MLA. People would respond in a positive way to the government initiative for addressing one of the long-standing demands, she said.

It is estimated that nearly 75,000 residents located in five Corporation divisions would be benefitted by the bridge.

But the LDF camp, which had been highlighting the issue, refuses to buy the theory.

E.M. Sunilkumar, the former councillor from the region and chairman of the Town Planning Standing Committee, felt it was an “election bridge” that the government had attempted to construct in the region.

The bridge, if constructed as planned earlier, would have served as a parallel thoroughfare for the Banerji Road. There are no plans to widen the roads in the region for handling the increased vehicular traffic when the bridge would be completed. The government has served eviction notice to 76 small-time traders in the region. These traders have been denied of their livelihood options. The government cheated the public by reducing the width of the bridge, he said.

Mr. Sunilkumar felt that there was widespread public sentiment against the government, which would be reflected in the election.

M. Anilkumar, the Corporation Councillor who spearheaded a campaign in the council for building the bridge in its original plan, felt that the UDF would have to pay a heavy price for its decision in the ensuing elections.

The preliminary works of the bridge would come to a halt after the elections as the State government is neck deep in financial crisis. The cash crunch will ground the work. No significant progress has been made regarding the land acquisition and mandatory clearances from the authorities, including the Railways. With the permanent closure of the level cross and delayed construction, people would be put to misery, he said.

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