Even as a debate is raging for and against the SilverLine semi-high-speed rail corridor project that involves potentially large-scale displacements, Sunday will mark the completion of a dreadful 14 years of life without rehabilitation for people driven out of their homes for another vaunted project, the Vallarpadam International Container Transshipment Terminal (ICTT).
It was on the morning of February 6, 2008 that 10 families were forcefully evicted from their homes at Moolampilly for the rail-road connectivity of the ICTT. Since then, the day has been observed as Moolampilly Day under the aegis of the Moolampilly Coordination Committee that has spearheaded the fight for evictees.
Considering the lockdown on Sunday, the protest to mark the anniversary of the displacement was held in Kakkanad village on one of the seven rehabilitation sites on Saturday. Though 104 families were allotted plots at the site, only two have constructed homes because of the marshy nature of the land. The Public Works Department (PWD) had in 2019 reported the land to be unfit for construction work, the committee said. Even two houses have developed cracks or slanted sideways because of which others are not willing to invest on the land.
The committee warned people against falling for the lucrative rehabilitation package offered by the government to speed up land acquisition for the SilverLine project.
So far, only 52 families have built homes at their own cost. The rest continue to live in makeshift accommodations or rented houses. Among the displaced, 32 have died, some by suicide, without rehabilitation, while many have fallen sick.
In total, 316 families were evicted for the project. In a release, the committee urged the authorities not to turn the rehabilitation package into a mere scarecrow. The apathetic attitude towards the rehabilitation of the Vallarpadam evictees is unbecoming of a civilised society and will cast a shadow over all future development projects.
The resistance by the evictees under the committee forced the government to announce a rehabilitation package on March 19, 2008. However, that package is now being sabotaged. The enthusiasm shown while acquiring land could not be seen in the implementation of the package, which, the committee alleged, was the result of political retribution. The families are left in the street for having opposed political diktats.