J. Balaji

NEW DELHI: Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan led an all-party State delegation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Wednesday and urged him to reduce the requirement for right of way (RoW) for National Highway (NH) development projects in the State to 30 metres from the proposed 45 metres.

The delegation opposed the implementation of the projects in the State on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis as this would lead to collection of toll. The delegation wanted the Centre to invest in the NH projects directly. It sought adequate rehabilitation and resettlement packages for the evictees. They pointed out that in many stretches land was being acquired only on one side of the road and not in equal measures on either side. A width of 45 metres was too heavy a demand in a densely populated State like Kerala (with a population density of 819 per sq km). Moreover, religious institutions and historical monuments needed to be protected.

Later, the Chief Minister told journalists that the Prime Minister had agreed to consider the request. He said that over 15 lakh people would get affected if the highways were expanded to 45 metres. There were lots of agitations and police actions which made the government to rethink on the subject after an all-party meet.

Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy said the Congress, in principle, was not against the BOT package for NH 47 and NH 17. But the Centre had initially agreed to expand the highways with its own funds, he said.

Night traffic ban

The delegates also urged the Centre to move the Supreme Court to get the stay given by the Karnataka High Court on night traffic on NH 67 and NH 212 connecting Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, vacated.

Regarding the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, the delegates told the Prime Minister that though Kerala was committed to adopting the national pattern, it required some time. The Centre should extend funding to the State under the project without insisting on a change in the age of entry to school immediately. “As a transition management measure, the State may be allowed to convert Class I as pre-primary and the Centre may finance the expenses involved,” they said promising that in due course the age of entry would be changed to six.

On the Kochi Metro project, the delegation sought early Central clearance with the participation of the Centre with the requisite external funding. They want this to be implemented on the Delhi metro formula and pointed out that the Centre need to spend only Rs.450 crore on the Kochi project.

Ministers C. Divakaran, N.K. Premachandran, Jose Thettayil, Kadannappaly Ramachandran, K.P. Rajendran, M. Vijayakumar, and M.A. Baby, MPs M.I. Shanavas (Congress), Jose K. Mani (KC-M) and E.T. Mohammed Basheer (IUML), RSP State secretary V.P. Ramakrishna Pillai and BJP State president V. Muraleedharan were in the delegation.