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Protests become louder in west Kochi

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BACK TO BOATS: Passengers from the west Kochi area coming out of a boat operated by the State Water Transport Department on Tuesday. Photo: Vipinchandran
BACK TO BOATS: Passengers from the west Kochi area coming out of a boat operated by the State Water Transport Department on Tuesday. Photo: Vipinchandran

Kochi bureau

No end to hardship faced by commuters; prices of essential commodities may rise further

KOCHI: Protests, cutting across political and organisational lines, became louder in west Kochi on Tuesday as another day ended without adequate transport facilities to the mainland.

Vehicular traffic between the area, one of the most thickly populated in Ernakulam district, and the city has been restricted since a dredger hit the Venduruthy Bridge on Saturday.

With many private buses stopping service at Thevara, people find it difficult to travel. Some passengers walk up to Thoppumpady, since enough number of services is not being run to interior areas.

For a population that braves high prices of essential commodities as toll is collected on a bridge to the mainland, the development bodes ill.

"With the traffic diversion, supply of drinking water in tanker lorries has become erratic. They no longer operate on schedule," said P.S. Sreedharan, resident of Palluruthy.

Poor infrastructure

People complain that the authorities have never paid heed to their demand for better infrastructure.

"The region is poorly linked to the mainland. The railway gate at Vathuruthy is a tragedy, where even one container can hold up traffic," said K.J. Sohan, former Mayor and now councillor representing Fort Kochi.

An allegation being made is that the same dredger hit the bridge for the second time in a few years because of the callous attitude of the authorities. "The trade unions had sought extreme caution while moving the dredger out, when the Cochin Port Trust Chairman told the last board meeting that dredging works had been completed. But no such precaution was taken," said K.J. Maxy, Thoppumpady councillor.

A consensus seems to emerge among the political leadership in taking up the problems affecting the area.

"Right now, the connectivity is poor. This is also because the railways have stopped all train services, barring one, to the region. We will definitely support any movement to highlight the plight of the people here," said K.J. Prakash, Mundamveli councillor.

Doctors at hospitals are keeping their fingers crossed. They refer seriously ill patients to speciality hospitals in the mainland. All it takes is a major accident to show up the inadequate transport facilities.

"Two of my doctors are staying in Ernakulam, and they find it hard to reach the hospital in time. Also, provisions have started becoming dearer, as suppliers have to drive extra distance to reach us," said B. Rajendran, doctor in a hospital at Kappalandimukku.

Boat services

The poor connectivity has given new vigour to the long-standing demand for more boat services between west Kochi and Ernakulam.

The Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation and the State Water Transport Department are operating boats to various places in west Kochi.

Without additional boats, the department has been diverting its Vypeen services via Fort Kochi. This arrangement will have the effect of operating new services, said an official.

The corporation has stepped up its operations to the region. Directives have been issued to increase the number of trips to Fort Kochi. On Monday, eight trips were run, said K.N. Satish, its Managing Director.

The crew has been asked to operate services without bothering about the schedules. Boats will be operated when they are half full, he said.

At the same time, the corporation and department authorities felt that there had not been heavy rush so far. The corporation's collection on Monday was just Rs. 2,000 against the daily operational cost of Rs. 6,200, Mr. Satish said.

The Pashchima Kochi Passengers' Association demanded that the department and corporation ply more boats. Its secretary, Padmanabha Mallya, said that boats on the route were overcrowded, posing a danger to passengers. The department must take immediate steps to repair the vessels.

District Congress Committee president V.J. Paulose also demanded more boat and junkar services.

The district authorities said that measures for ensuring passenger safety had been taken. Directives were issued to ensure the safety of passengers, said Fort Kochi Revenue Divisional Officer Mini Antony.

The suspension of rail traffic is a big blow to the Cochin port. Movement of cargo depend to a great extent on the Venduruthy Bridge.

Moving cargo by road is costlier and time-consuming in the present situation. The Container Corporation of India is said to be looking at alternative arrangements for the movement of containers.

Working of the India Gateway Terminals Ltd., operating the Rajiv Gandhi Container Terminal, has not been seriously affected.

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