Mananchira-Vellimadukunnu Road back in focus

the East Nadakkavu Junction, which is the most congested part of the Mananchira-Vellimadukunnu Road and has been an accident hotspot   | Photo Credit: K_RAGESH

Widening of the Mananchira-Vellimadukunnu Road is again in the limelight with a new spate of fatal accidents and an action committee formed by concerned citizens launching a signature campaign and planning go on an indefinite strike soon.

The demand for widening the road was first raised 15 years ago. While some portions of the stretch were wide enough, there were bottlenecks like East Nadakkavu Junction and Paroppadi, which were accident hotspots. Over the years, hundreds of people have lost their lives, while more have sustained serious injuries in road accidents at those spots.

It was T.M. Thomas Isaac as Finance Minister who declared the project as one of the seven roads under the City Roads Improvement Project. The others were completed and opened to the public recently, but this stretch remains a non-starter. The 8.4-km stretch was planned to be developed as a 24-metre-wide four-lane road, and the project cost was fixed at ₹52 crore. However, with the passage of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act in 2013, the estimate escalated to ₹345 crore, and the government found it difficult to source funds. The action committee, headed by historian M.G.S. Narayanan, was formed in 2012 to expedite the project. But it is still in the land acquisition stage.

“It is a long story of promises that were only to be broken later,” recalls M.P. Vasudevan, general secretary of the committee. So far, ₹114 crore has been released by the United Democratic Front and Left Democratic Front governments over the last 10 years, and another ₹50 crore is expected soon.

The committee staged three major protests between 2012 and 2016. The LDF had promised to complete it as a top priority when it came to power in 2016. The assurance that funds would be allocated under three separate heads was also not apparently honoured. The project was also not brought under the purview of the newly formed Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).

Meanwhile, land acquisition had already begun using the funds allocated. While several people relinquished their properties, a few who were not ready to relent moved the Kerala High Court against land acquisition. But the case went in favour of the government as it was an ongoing project.

The action committee had organised an agitation, including road blockade, in May this year, demanding the release of the promised ₹100 crore for land acquisition. The strike was withdrawn after ₹50 crore was released. Now, the Revenue Department requires ₹66 crore to complete the documentation of properties relinquished by their owners. Additional funds will be needed later to acquire more land under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013.

‘Not deliberate’

A. Pradeep Kumar, MLA, Kozhikode North, vouches that the delay was not deliberate but due to unprecedented issues. “The Mananchira-Vellimadukunnu Road being the longest of the seven roads listed under the City Roads Improvement Project, Revenue officers in charge of land acquisition kept it for the last stage of acquisition. By the time, the Land Acquisition Act was in place, things went out of hand,” he said.

The MLA added that the LDF government was prepared to release ₹50 crore as soon as the report on the ongoing acquisition process was submitted.

“The government is facing severe economic crunch now. Hence it is not easy to get more funds sanctioned,” he said.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 10:01:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/mananchira-vellimadukunnu-road-back-in-focus/article29816628.ece

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