The cyber wing of CPIM has launched a massive attack on renowned Malayalam writer Ambikasuthan Mangad for his stances against the proposed K Rail.
As the writer continues his campaign through his social media accounts, a number of cyber wing activists of the communist party are attacking with defamatory comments. This also points that the ‘Party gangs’ are active in cyberbullying even after CPM condemns such attacks.
As per reports, most of the trolls abusing individuals are created from the social media groups which are not recognised by CPM but support the party.
The project needs 1,383 ha of land, which will include large tracts of wetlands, forest areas, backwater regions, residential areas with a high density of population, rice fields, and existing building spaces.
As per the estimates of NITI Ayog, the compensation for land acquisition alone would come around Rs 281.57 billion (Rs. 28,157 crore). Agencies including Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Hudco, Rail Finance Corporation, and Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIFB) would lend out the money required for the implementation of the project. The trains on the new line, once completed, are expected to travel at a speed of 200 km per hour against the existing 80-90 km per hour.
The government had initially said that the new line would be constructed parallel to the existing line but the present alignment at many locations is up to four km away from the existing line which will result in large-scale land acquisition. Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail) managing director V. Ajith Kumar told Mongabay India that the changes in alignment were facilitated to avoid massive twists and turns and to make the route a straight line. K-Rail is a joint venture of the Kerala government and Union railway ministry.
Though Ajit Kumar terms the Silver Line project as a significant leap forward in the state’s infrastructure development over two dozen action councils have been formed across the state to protest the unilateral implementation of the project.
But environmentalists point out that no proper scientific, technical, social, environmental, and economic impact studies have been done for the project.
Kerala’s noted environmentalist R.V.G. Menon stressed the project would “have adverse impacts on the Western Ghats as it would require enormous amounts of granite and loose soil.”
“In Kerala, all granite quarries are in the Western Ghats. As the line must cross wetlands, rivers, rice fields and lakes, the project requires large-scale land reclamations. Numerous bridges planned as part of the project would require huge amounts of granite, sand, and soil. Considering the costly project’s social, environmental, and financial impacts, it is a white elephant,” Menon told Mongabay-India.
He said the government must backtrack from the project and prove its commitment to the people of the state who are now reeling under the adverse impacts of climate change and environmental destruction caused by large-scale projects with little or no benefits to the whole state.
However, Kumar notes that the project will reduce road congestion, accidents and fatalities, greenhouse gas emissions, produce employment opportunities, integrate airports and IT corridors, and lead to faster development of cities that it will pass through.
Not everyone is convinced. Santhosh Thannikkat, an expert who researched the project’s feasibility, emphasises that the new alternative line is getting mooted when even the existing rail lines in the state are remaining underutilised.
Thannikkat explains that Kerala’s travel woes can be addressed considerably by initiating steps to complete the pending rail infrastructure projects in the state as he pointed out that even the doubling works of the track between Kottayam and Alappuzha are incomplete for more than two decades.
“It is undoubtedly a costly project. As Kerala is well connected with five airports and neighbouring airports of Coimbatore and Mangalore, cheap flights are a far better option than an expensive high-speed railway, attracting only very few travellers. There is no guarantee that the new line would get more travellers as most people in the state prefer better connectivity to Bangalore and Chennai than the state’s interior areas like Kasargod,” Thannikkat claimed
On the criticism that the project would kill many paddy fields in the state, the authorities state that they will construct elevated paths in such areas and assured that there would be efforts to minimise the environmental and social impact of the project as much as possible. Sources in the government dismiss the opposition to the project and point out that the land acquisition would be done in accordance with the 2013 Land acquisition Act.
Over the last few years, similar concerns have been repeatedly made against the Indian government’s flagship Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project. Experts have said that the project will result in environmental and social issues and instead the government should focus on strengthening and optimum use of the present infrastructure.
Ambikasuthan Mangad, is also active in protests against the known pesticide Endosulfan. His novel Enmakaje portrays the life of victims in the village Enmakaje of Kasaragod. “Neelakandan” is the famous character in this novel. His work drew international attention of the people to this malady.
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