After The Railway Project, Vijayan Is Adamant About The Port, The Shadow Of Singur-Nandigram Is Getting Wider In Kerala: The shadow of Bengal’s Singur-Nandigram land movement over a railway project in Kerala has already lengthened. This time a port project has been added to it. The CPM-led government in Kerala has taken a hard line on both projects and protests are also gathering pace.
The new controversy started around the participation of civil society groups and Christians rather than politicians in the fishermen’s movement against the Vizhinjam deep sea port. A situation of direct conflict has developed around opposition to the port amid the movement against the land acquisition of the Silver Line rail project. The situation has already heated up due to the attack on the local police station by the fishermen. The Kerala government filed FIR against 3000 fishermen.
Although the fundamental difference between the two projects is that the decision to build the deep sea port was taken by the previous Congress government. The then Congress Chief Minister Oommen Chandy laid the foundation stone of the project in 2015. The port is being developed in a joint venture with Adani Port Limited.
Present Chief Minister and CPM Politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan said at an official function in Thiruvananthapuram yesterday, ‘When we came to power in 2016, the work on the port project had progressed a lot. We have a policy difference with the Congress government. But if the project is stopped when the government changes, the state’s progress will come to a standstill. We, therefore, did not stop the port construction project.’
Vijayan said with surprise, ‘After so many years, opposition to the project has started. Six demands of fishermen have been accepted. Now let the project continue.’ His clear words, ‘the question of completing the project does not arise. The government will continue with the construction of the port.
Although the deep sea port was a project taken up by the previous Congress government, now under the pressure of the situation, the hand camp has opened its mouth against the government. There is a political dispute about it.
The proposed rail project is named ‘Silver Line Rail’. The 529 km long railway line is to be constructed from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargarh district. This modern train will run at a speed of two hundred kilometers per hour.
The cost of the project has been estimated at 63 thousand 940 crores. However, the Niti Aayog estimates that the project completion cost will be around Rs 1 lakh crore in the financial year 2025-26.
Indian Railways has no direct association with this railway project. The Niti Aayog has only helped in formulating the initial plan. The government of Kerala has formed a company called ‘K-Rail’ in a joint venture with Indian Railways. That company was given the Silver Line rail project, but the majority of the cost is to be borne by the Japanese company JICA.
But under the pressure of the movement, the Indian Railway Board refused to enter into any further understanding with the railways. Vijayan met Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his cooperation in this regard. But the Railway Board has not yet responded.
What are the objections to the project?
Mainly three reasons. One. Kerala’s financial situation is deteriorating day by day. It has become worse during the Corona period as many people from the Middle East have lost their jobs and returned to the state. In this situation, if about one lakh crore rupees are borrowed for this project with high interest, it will drag the money in the welfare projects.
Two. Allegedly, the environment will be endangered. This project will require more land than other railways. Because there will be high fencing on both sides of the railway track. So that no one can enter the railway track. Moreover, almost half of the railways will be elevated corridors. For that reason, additional land is needed.
About three and a half thousand acres of land will be taken as initial. Being the most densely populated state, Kerala has less vacant land. Many are surprised by the decision to take such a huge amount of land for a project there.
Because, agricultural land, forest areas, water bodies, settlements, bazaars and even big bazaars have fallen within the proposed railway route. The vast railway line will sit at the foothills of the Western Ghats. As a result, experts fear huge damage to the environment.
Three. Thousands of families will be evicted. According to Niti Aayog’s calculations, the cost for the land will be around 28 thousand crore rupees. But the question has arisen, how to find a place to resettle so many families in a densely populated state?
Responding to the Chief Minister’s challenge, the Congress has announced that it will call for the uprooting of Ponta Pilar to acquire land if the government does not back down. The shadow of the Singur-Nandigram movement in that project in Kerala has gradually lengthened around this conflict between the government and the opposition. Chief Minister Pinarayi is like Buddhadev Bhattacharya of Singur-Nandigram in Bengal.
Buddhadev insisted on land acquisition for industry and Tata’s nano factory at Singur, Salim’s chemicals hub at Nandigram. The speech of Kerala CPM Chief Minister Vijayan is exactly similar to Buddhadevbabu’s stubborn stance in realizing the dream of building a new Bengal through industrialization. Like Buddhadevbabu, Pinarayi also became the Chief Minister for the second time.
The movement started with the port project mainly expressing the fear of environmental danger and job loss of fishermen. Frontline faces of the rights movement like Medha Patkar have joined hands with the agitators in both railway and port projects.