‘Estate owners, politicians trying to get the project shelved'

Bharatiya Janata Party leader O. Rajagopal on Friday expressed concern over “moves to subvert Sabari rail project.”

Addressing a press conference here, the BJP leader said that some estate owners and politicians were pressing for the project's abandonment. The UDF government should strive to make the project happen.

Mr. Rajagopal, who was Minister of State for Railways in the Vajpayee government at the Centre, said that land for the project had been acquired in Ernakulam district, but there were resistance in Kottayam district. There were also suggestions that the State should participate in the project in view of cost escalation, though the State government had not funded any railway project previously in Kerala.

The cost of the project had reportedly gone up from Rs.550 crore to Rs.1,000 crore because of the delay in its implementation. Though Rs.24 crore had been allocated for the project last year, only Rs.4 crore had been spent and the balance was diverted to works in Tamil Nadu.

Beneficiaries

He noted that though the project might affect some estate owners, the railway line would be of immense benefit to Sabarimala pilgrims and people of the hilly districts of Idukki and Pathanamthitta. The project proposed to connect Angamali to Sabarimala, touching pilgrim centres such as Kaladi, Malayattoor and Bharananganam and towns such as Perumbavoor, Thodupuzha, Erattuppetta, Pala, Ranni, and Konni.

Mr. Rajagopal said that Vivek Express run by the railways to mark the 150{+t}{+h} birth centenary of Swami Vivekananda should touch Kanyakumari also. Kanyakumari was an important place in the life of the Swami, as he realised his mission after meditating on the rock now known as Vivekanandapara.