Pinarayi Vijayan | Photo: Mathrubhumi
Thiruvananthapuram: The Centre's current stand against the Silverline semi high-speed rail corridor is unfortunate as without their approval it cannot go forward, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday and added that the Union government should change its stance on the project.
Vijayan said that after receiving in-principle approval for the project, the state government moved forward with it quickly and also initiated steps, like surveys and a Social Impact Assessment (SIA), without waiting for the final nod as it did not want to delay implementation of the rail corridor.
His statement comes in the wake of the Congress-led opposition questioning why the LDF government spent crores on the project which is not sanctioned by the Centre or the Railways.
"Unfortunately, what we are hearing now from those speaking for the Centre is that the project should not go forward," the Chief Minister said speaking to reporters at a media briefing here.
"Let us be clear, it cannot go forward without the Centre's approval," he added.
He further said the Silverline was not a pet project of the LDF government, rather it was a project for the state of Kerala and the ruling Left dispensation was only trying to implement it.
Therefore, the Centre should change its stand on the project as it would benefit the state and the people here, Vijayan said.
The query by Leader of Opposition (LoP) V D Satheesan, on why the state government spent crores on an unapproved project, came in the wake of a joint affidavit filed in the Kerala High Court on Monday by the Centre and the Railway Board stating therein that they have "neither approved nor concurred with the Social Impact Assessment (SIA)".
The affidavit, filed through Assistant Solicitor General of India S Manu, also said the survey was being conducted by the Kerala government under the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act and the Centre has no role in it.
"However, if the K-Rail Corporation, being a company, is involved in the SIA and spending its funds for the purpose, such involvement and expenditure will be at its own risk and responsibility," they said in the affidavit.
The Centre and the Railway Board reiterated that so far no approval has been granted by them for the project and therefore, any action for acquisition of land taken by any authority was premature.
Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal, on the other hand, said what the state did till now was based on permissions given by the Centre.
He further said that where projects for development of a state were concerned, the Centre should examine the same and give the necessary permissions or approvals.
"They are obligated to do so," he said and added that an application for approval of the project was pending before the central government.
Satheesan, speaking to reporters here earlier in the day, said Vijayan never replied to any of the opposition's queries, inside and outside the Assembly, as to how the state was moving forward with the project when it was not approved by the Centre or the Railway Board.
Instead, the Chief Minister "arrogantly" announced they will go ahead with it no matter what and also beat up those who opposed the project, he alleged.
Therefore, the money spent on the project, when it was not yet approved by the Centre, should be recovered from those responsible for it, the Congress leader contended.
The Kerala government's ambitious SilverLine project, which is expected to reduce travel time from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod to around four hours, is being opposed by the Congress-led UDF, which has been alleging that it was "unscientific and impractical" and will put a huge financial burden on the state.
The 530-km stretch from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod would be developed by K-Rail -- a joint venture of the Kerala government and the Railway Ministry for developing railway infrastructure in the southern state.
Starting from the state capital, SilverLine trains will have stoppages at Kollam, Chengannur, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Tirur, Kozhikode and Kannur before reaching Kasaragod.