Rail project will not serve common people, he says
The proposed Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod semi high-speed rail (Silverline) is going to become a financial albatross around the neck of Kerala, noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan has said.
Speaking at an ongoing satyagraha against the project at Kattilpeedika near Koyilandy in Kozhikode district on Sunday, he said that it would become a white elephant, which the people would continue to pay for decades altogether.
Mr. Bhushan said that Alok Varma, former Chief Engineer, Indian Railways, had told him that this project would break the backbone of Kerala. The high-speed line from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram had been conceived as a stand-alone standard gauge line, which would have a completely new alignment, different from the alignment of the normal rail lines. It would involve several tunnels and bridges that cut through the fragile mountainous terrain of Kerala. It would also involve acquisition of 1,000 hectares of new land, which would destroy the ecosystem of the State, which is prone to landslips and floods.
The so-called interest-free loan from Japan was also an illusion and nonsense, he said. “The loan would have to be repaid in Japanese currency, Yen. Because there is zero inflation in Japan and at least 7-8% inflation in India, the price of Yen appreciates by 7-8% every year against the rupee. Eventually, we will be paying an interest of at least 7-8% on this loan,” Mr. Bhushan said.
“There is absolutely no reason why this project should be built on standard gauge and not on broad gauge. The cost is projected as ₹75,000 crore by the government, but agencies such as NITI Ayog say that it may cost well over ₹1 lakh crore. For a 500-km stand-alone line, it is financially non-viable,” he said. Since the railway stations would be far away from cities, only a few well-to-do people would be able to travel by it. This project is not going to serve the common people, Mr. Bhushan added.
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