The BJP-led NDA government at the centre would not show any bias towards Kerala even though the state did not even elect a single BJP candidate during the recent Lok Sabha polls, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has said.
"We would continue to support development projects in the state and would always stand by Kerala," said Gadkari, who is in Kerala for a one-week pleasure trip after the hectic election days. He along with his family members are staying at the Taj Green Cove Resort at Kovalam in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram district.
"Ours is a secular government. Congress and Communist parties are spreading fear among people. Have we even taken one decision that is against the interest of the minority communities? But we will never tolerate terrorism in the name of religion," Gadkari said.
You picked Kerala to spend your holidays. What are Kerala's chances in the tourism sector?
There is huge scope for Kerala in the tourism sector. But the basic facilities have to be enhanced. Water transport and skywalks should be developed instead of relying on road transport due to rising fuel prices. You should also look at initiatives such as seaplane, sea cruise and sky bus.
Will the Centre back the light metro project?
Rs 350 crore is needed for constructing one kilometre of the metro. But for the sky bus, only Rs 50 crore is needed. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan should hold talks with the MD of the company manufacturing sky buses. Several other states have already signed the deal for it.
Fisherfolks are against the seaplane and similar projects
That attitude must change. New technologies should be used. Instead of fishing along the coastline, fisherfolk should go beyond 100 miles to get their catch.
Fisherfolk should be given modern boats equipped for the purpose. These are being built in several places, including Kochi.
Any new water transport project?
The Rs 16-lakh-crore 'Sagarmala' project that connects the main ports and rivers in India would bring in a revolutionary change to freight transportation.
It would lead to massive development in the agricultural and commercial sectors. The project would also create two crore job opportunities. Kerala too would be part of this.
The project for expanding the National Highway from Kasaragod to Parassala was removed from the High Priority List - I, triggering a controversy
That was due to fallout from the part of the officers. I personally intervened and it was included back in the first priority list. The main reason for the delay over highway expansion in Kerala is the time taken for land acquisition. As and when the land is acquired, the Centre funds too would reach the state.
There are hurdles in land acquisition due to the high density of population in the state
There also you need to change the attitude. People of both Kerala and Goa are adamant of building their houses by the roadside. Can't you leave out some space at the front and then construct the house? When new roads will be built, a distance of 6 metres has to be maintained. If that is not possible due to the high density, at least 3 metres should be maintained. If the land is the problem, then there are other high-speed options for water transportation. Considering the road and rail modes of transport, water transport is the least expensive.
There are allegations that Kerala is not getting its due for national highway expansion
During the last five years, the Centre implemented highway projects worth Rs 17 lakh crore. Then Kerala should ponder why it was left out?
It is not because of the Centre's approach. But because of your narrow-minded stance, the land acquisition got delayed. Rs 25,000 crore was promised. When the land acquisition procedures are completed, Rs 25,000 crore would be given to the state.
What do you mean by change of stance?
The CPM government's stance towards development projects. Even Russia and China changed. Malayalis are educated and have technical knowledge.
But they will use it only in foreign countries, not in Kerala. Our primary objective is to eliminate hunger. Only if new investments come, there would be capital funds. Projects will happen only if capital is there. And job opportunities would be created only if new projects come.
Then only can we eliminate hunger? If Kerala continues to oppose projects with lame arguments then even the future generations would have to seek employment abroad.
When I suggested that the Vizhinjam project should be given to Adani Group, the CPM dubbed him to be a BJP man. If that was the attitude, I said no need. And then the CPM changed its stance.
When everyone else adopted the public-private partnership (PPP) model of construction, you opposed initially. With all this, you are losing precious time. You can donate eyes, not vision. If there is no land to build roads, then look at other options such as waterways and sky buses.
But can the sky bus projected be implemented here?
Definitely. Double-decker buses that travel on pillars would be manufactured in India. I brought in experts from Australia for this. Now we have the technical know-how for launching the project.
Tier-2 cities are best suited for the project. With one-fourth of the cost needed to build metro and light metro, you can implement the sky bus project. You just need some space for building pillars in the middle of the road. Permission would be granted to build pillars on the medians of the national highway.
Eighteen Indian cities have approached the Centre for implementing the project. If Kerala too approaches the Centre, all help would be given.
It has been alleged that the Centre has been taking an antagonistic approach towards the state government
Whenever your chief minister comes to meet me, I have never shown any discrimination for being the leader of an opposing party. I have always promised all help.
He is a good friend. Come up with good projects. All support and funds would be given.
What all changes have to be made in the transportation sector?
While developing the transportation sector of this beautiful land, extra care should be taken so that the environment is not harmed in any way. Initiatives such as solar power and wind power projects should be encouraged. Even electric vehicles should be promoted. The public transport system should be upgraded. For everything, there is scientific means and the funds too.
The state is yet to get the nod for the port road projects that connects eight ports in Kerala
There are some technical problems linked to land availability. Once that is resolved, the permission would be granted.