‘No discrimination against Kerala,’ Centre revokes order stalling NH-66 expansion

Centre revokes order stalling NH-66 expansion
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New Delhi: In a huge relief for Kerala, the Centre has revoked an order that put the state in high priority list II, thereby virtually stalling all the work in connection to the expansion of the National Highway – 66 (NH-66).

While confirming that the circular has been withdrawn, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari said that the Centre has not shown any discrimination against Kerala.

Sources said that the Centre revoked the order after the intervention of Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam, who said that Kerala would get the same consideration as before.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had earlier asked the LDF government to stop the land acquisition needed for the expansion of the NH-66. Following the order, the work had to be stopped in all areas except Kasaragod.  Only regions in Kasaragod district – Thalapady-Chengala and Chengala-Neeleswaram stretches – were part of the high priority list I. The Centre had even said that it would only provide Rs 1,600 crore for carrying out works in these areas in this financial year.

As the highway expansion in all other districts was moved to the high priority list II, no work could be carried out in the next two years.
The old NH-17, NH-47 and the areas south to the Edappally form the NH-66. A total of 1,111 hectares have to be acquired, and around 80 per cent of land acquisition was completed in the northern districts and 60 per cent in the southern districts.  If the land acquisition had been delayed by two years, the prices would have further shot up.

The NHAI put a stop to the works even as the government was trying to complete the already delayed project by 2021. The CPM had alleged that BJP state president Sreedharan Pillai tried to derail the project.

Finance Minister Thomas Isaac also put up a Facebook post, blaming the BJP leader for stalling the project. Following this, Union minister Kannanthanam sent a letter to Gadkari. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan too spoke with Gadkari over the phone. Minister G Sudhakaran had also sent a letter to the Union minister.

Gadkari had earlier said Rs 25,000 crore would be allotted for highway expansion in Kerala if the land acquisition procedures were completed.

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