Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the Centre's decision to put on hold national highway development in the state was yet another attempt by the Sangh Parivar to destroy all that the state had gained over the years.
He said the state had not received its due from the Centre during crises like Ockhi, Nipah and the August floods. He said the BJP government not only blocked the money promised by foreign countries but also thwarted the state's attempts to mobilise money from the Malayali diaspora.
“If there is one organisation that had not contributed anything for the growth of our state, it is the Sangh Parivar,” the chief minister told the media here on Tuesday. Pinarayi said it was shocking to realise that the BJP state president (Sreedharan Pillai) had written a “secret letter” to the Centre asking that the NH development in the state be stopped. “It is the sadistic mentality of someone who wants the people of Kerala to be forever trapped in traffic snarls,” the chief minister said.
The Natioanl Highway Development Authority, in a letter sent to its regional officer on May 2, had directed that the national highway work in Kerala be slotted in the 'high priority - 2' category. Projects in the HP-2 category will have its land acquisition and the award of compensation put on hold for two years.
“Such an order has come at a time when the work on NH-66 has been progressing at a fast clip and has been issued without any consultation with the state government,” the chief minister said. “No reasons have been stated either,” he said.
The chief minister said the directive had come after elections in the state were over. “The PWD secretary had promptly got in touch with the NHAI and sought a withdrawal of the order. The PWD minister too had shot a letter to the minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari,” Pinarayi said. Nothing has come of this.
The upshot of the Centre's decision is that the state's road development will be frozen for two years. “It looks like the Centre wanted to ensure that highway development will not take place in the state during the remaining two years of the LDF government,” the chief minister said.
He said the LDF government had done all it could to take forward the national highway development project. “The UDF did not do anything and the notification had lapsed by 2013. Many stretches of the NH were so bad that it would have been a shame to call it a national highway,” the chief minister said. “When the LDF came to power, we assured that the entire stretch from Thalappady in Kasaragod to Kazhakuttam in Thiruvananthapuram would have a width of 45 metres. The NHAI once again took up the project. Land acquisition began in right earnest and rehabilitation measures were also put in place,” he said.
At the moment, the NH66 development is at an advanced stage. The 3A notification (the intention to acquire land) is 100 per cent complete. The 3D notification (notification to acquire land) is 92-100 per cent complete in Kasaragod, Kannur and Kozhikode; 60 per cent complete in Malappuram, Thrissur and Ernakulam; 40 per cent complete in Alappuzha, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. “The latest order from the centre will effectively kill NH development in the state,” the chief minister said.
He said it would be wishful thinking to hope that it would resume after two years. “Earlier, the tender process for the work between Thalappady and Neeleshwaram was delayed over negotiations on price. In the next two years, price will only increase making acquisition even more difficult,” the chief minister said.
He said that funds for national highway development should rightfully go to a state government. “For the last 19 years, the Centre had been collecting petrol and diesel cess at the rate of Rs 8 per litre specifically for national highway development. This money is not shared with the states, like in the case of other central levies,” the chief minister said. “Kerala has not received the money it rightfully deserves for NH development,” he added.
So is the case when major disasters struck the state. “When Ockhi hit the state, we had asked for a special package of Rs 7,340 crore. What we got was Rs 133 crore, and from this Rs 21.30 crore was deducted. To tide over the monsoon fury we had asked for Rs 5,116.70 crore in two phases and a special package of Rs 5,000 crore. All that we had received till now is Rs 2,904.85 crore,” the chief minister said.