Centre in a bind over K-Rail project

Amid mounting protests from Opposition parties and organisations in Kerala, the BJP-led government at the Centre is weighing its options before giving a green signal to the SilverLine project of the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (K-Rail).

While the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government is aggressively pushing the proposed ₹63,941 crore semi-high speed rail project, the Prime Minister’s Office ( PMO) has still not favourably responded to the ambitious initiative in Kerala.

Perhaps this may have prompted the Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan to comment that he had no idea whether the PMO would give approval for the project.

Budget mention

Now it remains to be seen whether the project will get a mention in the Union Budget 2022-23 to be presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1.

Last year the Union Finance Ministry had approved the debt-fund raising plan for the project as well as approved the funding of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

In fact, Ms. Sitharaman had also asked the K-Rail, a joint venture company under the State government and Ministry of Railways, to expedite land acquisition projects after obtaining necessary clearances.

The SilverLine project connecting Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod covers 529.45-km in four hours and aims to be completed in 2025.

BJP stand

However the contentious K-Rail project has apparently caught the BJP State unit in a catch-22 situation even as it outwardly opposes the high-speed rail corridor. The State BJP leadership believes that if it publicly supports the K-Rail, it may bolster the UDF campaign that the BJP and the CPI(M) are on the same page.

Already the High Court of Kerala has directed the Centre to make its position clear on the project while also staying the process of laying boundary stones of the project in violation of the Survey and Boundaries Act.

Railways stand

Simultaneously the counsel for the Union Railway Ministry also informed the Kerala High Court that the State government did not require any sanction from the Railways for conducting the survey and social impact study and land acquisition under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act.

It also said that the Railways had given on-principle approval for the project.

Incidentally, of the eight board of directors of the K-Rail, four of them, including managing director V. Ajith Kumar, are attached to the Ministry of Railways. The company was incorporated in January 2017.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 3:47:47 pm |