In a press conference on May 7, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan slammed the BJP-led central government for choking the state’s development through its decision to stop the widening of the National Highway 66, passing through the state. Before the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government came to power, the land acquisition process and tendering process for the project were rapidly moved forward. However, the decision to stop the ongoing project, which aimed to develop the NH 66 to a 4-lane highway, that connects the state from the northern tip of Thalapady in Kasaragod district to the southernmost Kazakkoottam in Thiruvananthapuram district, has created a huge setback to the state.
The project had been started under the NH development scheme of the central government. The National Highways Authority of India, without taking the state government into confidence, sent a letter to the regional officer on May 2. The letter informed the decision taken on April 15 this year to stop the project, under a policy guideline. According to this guideline, the NH project in Kerala was placed higher priority II, which meant that the project won’t start until 2021 and put an immediate stop to the process of land acquisition for the project and calculating the price of the land.
Terming the decision as an attempt to throttle the state’s development projects, CM Pinarayi Vijayan said, “There is a clear political agenda behind this. The fact that the decision came just after the Lok Sabha elections in the state seems to be a clear evidence of the political agenda of Sangh Parivar to ignore the state.”
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The statement issued during the press conference said, “The state government of Kerala works hard for land acquisition and also to create better rehabilitation facilities.”
The development of NH 66 is very crucial for the state as it connects all the four major ports in the state, which include the Cochin port that is the largest container transshipment facility provider in India. The highway also connects the major ports of the western coast to the rest of the country. The statement further said that the decision to stop the project will also affect the upcoming dream project of Vizhinjam port in Thiruvananthapuram. The state’s tourism projects are also set to be in trouble following the arbitrary decision of the central government.
The state CM also said that this decision is a reminder of the BJP-led central government’s neglect towards the issues in the state, such as in the case of last year’s devastating floods and Ockhi disaster.
Following the statement issued by the state CM, a huge uproar had been created in the state. As a result of which Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on May 9 revoked the order and said that the ordinance placing the state in the priority II category stands cancelled.
However, PWD Minister G Sudhakaran has said that there is no clarity in the amendment brought out by NHAI. On Saturday, he released a letter sent by the officer on special duty, K. Venkata Ramana to the NHAI chairman which mentions that higher priority II projects are not dropped and could be continued after seeking the approval of NHAI headquarters by providing the status of land acquisition as on May 2 and traffic on these projects.
Commenting on the lack of clarity, Sudhakaran said that the existence of priority I and priority II adds to the confusion and that the demand is to include the project in priority I.
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