In Kerala, a state-level people’s resistance movement is in the offing aimed to resist the proposed Silverline K-Rail project – a joint venture of Central Government and State Government, that is perceived to be disastrous from social, economic and environmental standpoints.
The Silverline project seeks to construct a high-speed train running between Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram at an average speed of 136 km per hour and a maximum of 200 km per hour. One way fare would be Rs. 1457 with a 7.5% charge hike per year to follow. While the K- Rail estimates the cost of Silverline to be Rs.6394 crores, the Niti Ayog estimate is RS.1,26000 which would raise the fare still higher.
The Standard Gauge railway track with stations and other infrastructure constructed with technology, loan and other requisites from Japan would need 5000 acres of land. within which would be132km.of paddy fields. Around 20,000 civil construction sites, including houses, schools, places of worship, and public utilities would have to be demolished. The natural course of several rivers and canals would be obstructed. Thousands of trees, hills of the Western Ghats would be destroyed.
With closure of existing roads in towns and villages- commuting would be difficult. All this would seriously directly affect lives and livelihood of not less than a lakh of people indirectly, the entire state. There are trains already running at a speed of 160km per hour in some parts of the country; they are to run in Kerala too by 2025. Would not the ‘high speed’ Silverline project taking 15 years to complete, become obsolete then?
The claim that 70,000 commuters would travel on Silverline seems a bit too tall as the experience of the Kochi Metro incurring loss is for all to see. Thousands of people were vacated from their abodes for the construction of the National Highway, yet the work remains pending even at a lapse of forty years.
Experts on Railways etc. call the proposed project disastrous for Kerala. Discussions have not been held in the assembly, or with people’s representatives. It was only under public pressure and court directives that the Kerala Government is attempting to go for environment impact assessment. The Kerala Government has shown precedence of an approach that can only be called callous and criminal for having undertaken projects like Vizhinjam port construction and some others that were in utter disregard to the climate, environment and topology of the state.
Similarly dismal is the picture of rehabilitation- nothing short of a grave social problem. In 12 years, rehabilitation of 316 families dislocated from Moolampally due to construction of container terminal, has not been completed. People displaced due to sea-surge in 2017, are still dumped down at FCI godown!
All such observations have led people living in areas through which the proposed line would pass, to get united, irrespective of party allegiance, or political or religious affiliation under the banner of a State – level People’s Committee and form people’s resistance committees. Leftist organisations are coming up in open protest too.
The Government has either to escape public wrath by withdrawing this disastrous project or face defeat in the face of massive protest in the days to come.