K-rail: Plight of landowners of Sabari Railway project is a sordid reminder


KR Prahladan

Kottayam: While the scuffles and protests against the land survey of K-Rail project continue, it is worth noting that the state has witnessed similar hurdles in the past. People are apprehensive about stone laying for the SilverLine project after viewing the plight of various landowners from the past due to similar projects.

For instance, Sabari Railway, a proposed 111 kilometres railway line from Angamaly to Erumeli, has been stalled for years. The survey procedures for the delayed project have left around 900 landowners unable to sell their land or use it for any financial dealings.

Only seven kilometres of the project announced in 1997 have been built. In 2020, the Railways officially froze the project. However, the K-Rail Company has offered to take over the project. The rest of the survey, which had been stopped earlier, was also completed.

Previously, the survey was completed to a distance of 70 km. The aerial survey (lidar) was carried out on the remaining 41 km. The Central Government had said that the project would be relaunched if the details are submitted to the Railway Ministry.

However, several technical hurdles need to be resolved to revive the frozen project. The 111 km Sabari Path has estimated at Rs 2,800 crore in 2017 and has now increased to around Rs 3,500 crore. It is unsure how the state will manage the financial burden of the project in addition to K-Rail.

People are opposing the project due to the legal hurdle that follows when the land is surveyed and stone laid. Further, the detailed project report (DPR) has not been approved by the Railway Board and the Central Government.

Earlier, the High Court itself had raised questions over conducting land survey after preparing the DPR. Further, there is also a need to study social and environmental impacts.

Though DPR mentions that 7000 families will have to be evacuated, the final information will be available only after the social impact study. Action council which stands against the project pointed out that 20,000 families will be directly affected by the project and 9,500 buildings will have to be demolished.

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