KERALA

Protest against rail routes gaining momentum

KOTTAYAM Dec. 24. Even as the Sabarimala pilgrimage is in full swing, two popular agitations against two different railway lines to Sabarimala are gaining momentum in the Central Travancore area.

The first one to hit the headlines was the one against the proposed Kottayam-Erumeli railway project. The railway authorities had conducted a survey a few years back but had not finalised the alignment. Recently, they had tried another alignment and this had triggered a series of protests. The agitating local people have raised several reasons to oppose the railway line, the major one being the financial non-feasibility of a railway line for a comparatively short distance, that is also well connected by road.

It is also pointed out that the land transactions over the spots marked during the earlier survey had come to a stand still. And the result of the new survey would be another area with a similar fate. People suspect that vested interests were behind the railway line and they pointed to the fact that even after so many years, the authorities had not finalised the point of origin of the proposed line.

In short, there had been no attempt on the part of the authorities concerned to take the people into confidence before undertaking such a massive exercise, and the people are suspicious of the sincerity of the officials.

Better transparency could have avoided the present imbroglio, it is pointed out.

Yet another agitation is brewing in the high ranges against the proposed Angamali-Sabari rail which is passing through the Ponkunnam-Kanjirappally area.

The agitating people said that the alignment of the line had been changed many times to serve vested interests. They wanted the present alignment changed. It should be through a less densely populated area, they said.

Interestingly, the agitators were receiving unprecedented political support, both from the LDF and the UDF, thanks to the ensuing parliamentary elections. Leaders in this area know well that the first victim of the Sabari rail was Ramesh Chennithala, former MP from Kottayam who lost the elections mainly because of the antipathy of the people against the railway line.

Meanwhile, the entry of Hindu Aikya Vedi into the scene has complicated the picture. They have given a communal tint to the whole issue and said they would organise a mass movement to fight against the ongoing agitation against the Sabari rail as the railway line was the dream of lakhs of Sabarimala pilgrims. The BJP has not come into the picture openly, but it may not be far when they too would throw their lot into the fray.

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