Thiruvananthapuram: Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari and Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday laid the foundation stone and inaugurated a total of 15 national highway projects in the state. They are altogether worth Rs 45,536 cr.
Gadkari said that projects worth Rs 3 lakh crore will be implemented in Kerala by the end of 2025 and the Centre aims to implement road infrastructure development having international standards in the southern state.
The projects inaugurated are the Kuthiran tunnel road and the Kazhakoottam elevated highway. Foundation stone was laid for the longest six-lane flyover in the country from Aroor to Thuravoor Thekku on NH-66 with a length of approximate 13 km, which will facilitate faster and hassle-free connectivity between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, and also will reduce the transportation cost.
Speaking at the event, the chief minister slammed the media for “misreporting” the comments of Gadkari in the Lok Sabha about Kerala expressing concern about bearing 25 per cent of land acquisition charges. “If you (media) think that you can create some rift between the governments, it is not going to happen,” he said.
Gadkari had alleged that Kerala backtracked from its promise of bearing 25 per cent of the land acquisition cost, citing recent comments of the chief minister.
CM started his speech by thanking Gadkari for his “keen interest in the development of the state“ without which, “these projects would never have been materialised.”
"This is a success story of people's willpower. The majority wants to finish projects on time. When we assumed power, NH development in the state was in a poor state. We understood the significance of road development in Kerala. That is why we took it up as an agenda,” he said.
On the controversy, Pinarayi said, “Gadkari-ji had expressed concern about land rates in Kerala. We have a higher density of population resulting in higher land prices. NHAI said it was impossible for them to handle it. Gadkariji mediated the discussions and Kerala agreed to pay 25 per cent of land acquisition charges."
“It was, in fact, a penalty for our own lackadaisical approach to NH development over these years. We paid more than 5,000 crore for it. Later, we paid our share in several other projects too,” he said.
Pinarayi disagreed with union minister V Muraleedharan's view that many states bear the expense of NH construction. “It was due to the special situation of Kerala that we paid that amount. Other states may share expenses for certain projects. But no state was asked to do so for every project,” he said.
“Kerala cannot be punished for its peculiarity of high population density. We must be treated the same way the union government treats other states. We accepted the fine for delay from our side and paid it. But it cannot continue forever,” he said.
Pinarayi added that he discussed the recent comments of Gadkari on Kerala when he arrived for the inauguration. “Such matters will be resolved through dialogue,” CM said.
Inaugurating the projects, Nitin Gadkari said that it will boost broad economic growth in Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Kollam, and Thiruvananthapuram districts. It will also enhance tourism possibilities in Bekal, Kannur, Kozhikode, Fort Kochi, Alappuzha, Kollam, Varkala and Kovalam. Noting that projects are instrumental to growth in ports of Azhikkal, Beypore, Cochin, Kollam, and under construction Vizhinjam International Seaport, Gadkari said Kuthiram tunnel is going to be the first-ever six-lane twin tube tunnel in southern India, which will reduce travel time from 30 to 2 minutes.
"Decongestion of traffic from Thalappady to Tiruvananthapuram will benefit the Technopark IT Hub. Travel time will reduce from 17 to 9 hours between the above two places", he said. The project will generate huge employment in both direct and indirect modes as well as self-employment opportunities. It will also stimulate the export of Kerala spices, coffee, cashews, fish, fishery products, coconut, and coir products, he added.
Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan, ministers of state, MPs, MLAs and senior officials attended the function.