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No solution in sight to reopen rail gate at Bekal

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Major attraction: The Bekal Fort, a perennial source of interest for tourists.
Major attraction: The Bekal Fort, a perennial source of interest for tourists.

S. Anil Radhakrishnan

Work on the resorts under the Bekal Tourism Project hit

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The closing down of the Chettukundu railway level-crossing in Kasaragod district by the railways has blocked the movement of hundreds staying on the western part of the railway line and affected the construction of the resorts under the Bekal Tourism Project.

The manned level-crossing between Kanhangad and Bekal Fort railway station was set up by the railways on the request of the Bekal Resorts Development Corporation (BRDC), a State government undertaking, implementing the tourism project.

The level-crossing commissioned on December 26 last year was closed down on October 16 as the BRDC could not pay the enhanced amount sought by the railways towards meeting the expense of the gate and its operation for 90 years.

Access denied

Since then, the 500-odd families living on the western part of the railway line had been denied access to the outside world.

In addition, one primary school, a mosque, a temple and one of the resorts of the tourism project are also located in the coastal belt.

The development of the 3.5-km road at a cost of Rs.132 lakh under the Tsunami Rehabilitation Project to link the costal village to the State highway also had also come to a standstill as the access to the road crosses the railway level-crossing gate.

The BRDC had deposited Rs.98 lakh in August 2004 as the cost of providing the level-crossing as demanded by the railways. However, in August 2008, the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM), Palakkad, informed the BRDC that the maintenance cost of the railway level-crossing gate had been reworked to Rs.2,38,81,972.

The railways had asked the BRDC to remit the balance amount of Rs.1,40,81,972 in six equal instalments of Rs. 23,46,995.

In December 2008, the BRDC informed the railways that they were ready to pay the enhanced amount in instalments from March 2009 and the next instalment after a gap of six months.

While the BRDC took up the matter with the railways to waive the enhanced amount through the Chief Minister, Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Railways, MPs and legislators, the DRM (Works) asked the BRDC to remit the first instalment before March 29 this year. This was followed by a letter from the railways on October 1 to remit the first two instalments by October 15.

The gate was closed down on October 16 after displaying the notice and without considering the request of the BRDC. “What will the BRDC do if the railways enhance the amount again citing escalation in market price?” asks an official.

Plea to Centre

Minister for Tourism and Home Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in a letter to Union Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed had pointed out the undue hardship caused to the locals and how the construction works of the project and the road had been affected. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala had also written to Union Minister for Railways Mamata Banerjee to intervene.

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