Staff Reporter

KOCHI: Even as the city folks enjoyed a sumptuous dinner and celebrated Onam, a section of families from Moolamppilly continued their struggle for a cause on Friday.

Twenty-two families, which were evicted for the rail and road connectivity of the proposed Vallarpadam International Container Terminal project, continued their satyagraha demanding implementation of the rehabilitation package even on the auspicious occasion of Thiruvonam.

Geo Jose, social activist, inaugurated the satyagraha at the makeshift pandal being erected at Menaka junction. C.R. Neelakantan, Kuruvila Mathews, and Fr. Augustine Vattoly, who are supporting the displaced, spoke. As a mark of protest, the families gave up ‘Onasadya’ and cooked gruel at the pandal.

The evictees continue to languish in shacks, which are battered by heavy rain. They would be deprived of rent allotted under the rehabilitation package within two months. Rent was allotted for 10 months out of which eight months had already elapsed.

“If they are not rehabilitated, the protests would be intensified. So far we haven’t obstructed the work, but we would be forced to do that if the problem is not resolved at the earliest,” Francis Kalathunkal, general convener of the coordination committee representing the evictees, said.

He said that at a meeting held in the presence of Fisheries Minister S. Sarma in July, the revenue official in charge of rehabilitation of evictees had agreed to complete rehabilitation by September 4. However, the slushy land identified for rehabilitation has not even been filled up, he said.

Mr. Kalathunkal said the government order on rehabilitation package stated that the Cochin Port Trust (CPT) would fund the rehabilitation of evictees. But CPT had declined to assist on the ground that the decision was taken without consulting it, he said. “When we brought the matter to his notice Mr. Sarma said that the decision was taken at a meeting attended by the chairman of the CPT,” he said.

Besides, the name of the four-lane road had been changed to NH-47C Road as it converges with the NH at Kalamassery.

Following this, the CPT took the position that the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) should fund the rehabilitation of those evicted for the road connectivity, he said.

When contacted, NHAI officials said that they had not received any official communication on such a demand, Mr. Kalathunkal said.

Meanwhile, the district administration has expressed its helplessness in rehabilitating the evictees citing lack of funds. The administration had estimated that readying the rehabilitation land would cost Rs. 1.5 crore, Mr. Kalathunkal said.

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