Special Correspondent

Says Palakkad division will still get assured revenue

SALEM: Minister of State for Railways R. Velu has assured the people of Kerala that bifurcation of the Palakkad division will not harm their interests.

Allaying Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthananthan's apprehension over the formation of the Salem Railway division, Mr. Velu told The Hindu over phone here on Thursday that the Palakkad division, prior to the bifurcation, earned annual revenue of Rs. 456 crore. After the bifurcation, it would generate Rs 265 crore from passenger and freight operations.

Additional revenue

The Minister said he had not included the revenue the division was earning by transporting cement from factories at Madukarai and Walayar, and ferrying oil to Mangalore-based industries.

Salem would earn just Rs. 200 crore a year from freight and passenger operations. The Palakkad division would continue to have assured revenue through "better ratio of loadings."

"These statistics... will dispel any doubt in the minds of Kerala people," Mr. Velu said.

On Mr. Achuthananthan's contention that most of the areas from the Palakkad division had been carved out to form the Salem division, Mr. Velu said the Palakkad division, even after the bifurcation, had 544 kms under its jurisdiction.

"There is no sufficient reason to argue that after the bifurcation Palakkad has become a smaller division."

Expressing displeasure over Mr. Achuthanandan's move to stall the formation of the Salem Railway division, representatives from several people's fora and cadre of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) staged a demonstration.

Terming Mr. Achuthananthan's negative approach "unfortunate", the protesters said of late, Kerala was taking a "hostile" stand on issues concerning Tamil Nadu. They raised slogans against the Kerala's attempt to thwart the formation of the division and pointed out that the project was a five-decade old dream of the people of seven districts in the western region.

"Hostile" approach

A. Jayaseelan, general secretary of the Salem City Chamber of Commerce, said Mr. Achuthananthan had taken the "hostile" approach only to divert the attention of the people of Kerala from the Mullaperiyar issue. With the Salem Steel Plant was on a major expansion mode, the formation of the division at Salem was essential for the development of Tamil Nadu.