Brakes on Kerala's SilverLine as bypoll approaches?

The proposed greenfield rail line passes through parts of Thrikkakara constituency, which is going to bye-election on May 31
Last Updated 08 May 2022, 10:38 IST

The SilverLine semi-high-speed rail, one of the flagship projects of the ruling CPi(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Kerala, is likely to be a decisive factor in the upcoming bypolls to Thrikkakkara Assembly constituency of Kochi.

It seems the government decided to put on hold the exercise of laying demarcation stones, anticipating that protests against the project may influence the voters. For more than one week, laying of demarcation stones at private lands was not happening in Kerala, especially after it witnessed stiff resistance at Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's constituency Dharmadam in Kannur district.

Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (K-Rail) managing director Ajith Kumar told DH that no decision to put on hold the laying of demarcation stones was taken by the government.

So far stones could be laid only in around 190 kilometres of the proposed 530-kilometre line, which included government land. Stones laid at many private lands were pulled out by the people, anti-rail activists and Congress workers.

The proposed greenfield rail line passes through parts of Thrikkakara constituency, which is going to bye-election on May 31.

While the CPM is trying to project it as a development initiative and accuse the Congress of being anti-development, the Congress is trying to cash in on protests against land acquisition, the environmental hazards and the huge financial burden posed by the project.

The project did not witness much opposition in Thrikkakkara region as the rail line has been proposed to pass mainly through government land and unoccupied regions.

A section of the society, especially youngsters from the IT sector, are welcoming SilverLine. Infopark, a major IT park in the state, falls in the constituency and a large section of staff who work in the Thrikkakkara office hail from different parts of Kerala. Hence, they consider SilverLine a welcome move, said Ashik Sreenivas, joint convenor of Prathidhwani, a forum of IT park employees.

The anti-SilverLine action council expects the SilverLine project would adversely affect the prospects of the ruling LDF in the bypolls.

C K Sivadasan, a leader of the action council from Kochi, said that the action-council would not openly support or oppose any particular party or candidate in the election, but would campaign to vote against those favouring SilverLine.

CPM's surprise candidate in the election, cardiologist Dr Jo Joseph, had already stated that SilverLine project is important for Kerala's development, while Congress leaders maintained that the people's protest against the project would also reflect in the election.

If the election results are in favour of the LDF, it could be dubbed a people's mandate to the SilverLine project and if it is against, it could be dubbed as a mandate against the project.

(Published 08 May 2022, 10:38 IST)

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