Kerala govt's panel discussion on SilverLine runs into controversy
A panel discussion on Kerala government’s ambitious SilverLine project has run into a controversy, with two eminent panellists on Tuesday backing out of the programme citing a lack of clarity in the invitations extended to them.
Alok Kumar Verma, a retired Chief Bridge Engineer who was part of preparing the preliminary feasibility report of the SilverLine alias K-Rail project but later raised stiff objection, and environmentalist Sridhar Radhakarishnan announced backing out of the two-hour-long discussion scheduled on April 28 at the Mascot Hotel in Thiruvananthapuram.
They were inducted into the panel of those speaking against the project. The development follows the withdrawal of social observer Joseph C Mathew, a known critic of the state’s ruling LDF government, from the panel by the organisers.
Verma demanded that the government be the organiser of the panel discussion. Seeking clarity on this and various other issues related to the project, Verma had written a letter to State Chief Secretary V P Joy.
Verma told reporters in New Delhi that he has decided to withdraw from the panel discussion as he did not receive any response from the state government.
“I will not be able to come and attend the panel discussion. The government is not willing to listen about serious deficiencies and staggering fudging and fabrication in the feasibility report and the DPR for SilverLine project,” he said.
In his letter to the Chief Secretary, Verma had suggested that the invitation should come from the Chief Secretary and the moderator should be a senior secretary of the Government of Kerala. He had also suggested including a serving officer of the Indian Railway as co-moderator.
Radhakrishnan alleged there was political interference to sabotage the discussion by eliminating the role of the chief secretary in organising the panel discussion and placing K-Rail Development Corporation Ltd as the new organisers.
It is a “mockery and farce” from the government’s side, he alleged.
Radhakrishnan was inducted in the panel by the K-Rail Development Corporation after withdrawing Mathew, a known critic of the LDF government, from the panel of those speaking against the project.
The decision to withdraw Mathew was criticised by Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, V D Satheesan.
The programme is designed in the format of three experts speaking for the project and three experts speaking against it in the presence of 25-50 invited audience.
Subodh Jain, retired Member-Engineering, SN Raghuchandran Nair, president, Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Trivandrum) and Saji Gopinath, vice-chancellor, Kerala Digital University, were included as panelists to speak in favour of the semi-high speed railway but some changes were made in it also.
Interestingly, no one from the Anti-Silver Line People’s Forum, a platform which spearheads protests across the state against the multi-crore infrastructure initiative, has been invited to the discussion.
There were also protests against not inviting ‘Metro Man’ E Sreedharan for the seminar.
The Pinarayi Vijayan government is coming up with the panel discussion on the K-Rail project when they face intense protests from opposition parities and a section of local people, who may be affected by the initiative, against its implementation.
One of the major criticisms by the Opposition Congress and BJP is that the Left government is not listening to the concerns of common people and the views of those who oppose it.
The SilverLine rail corridor, envisaged to cover a 530-kilometre stretch from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasaragod, is estimated to cost around Rs 64,000 crore.
The project aims to make transportation easy along the entire north-south of Kerala and reduce travel time to less than four hours as against 12-14 hours.
(With Agency inputs)