Rupee slump affects passenger corridor
By Pramod Thomas | Published: 09th September 2013 01:00 PM |
The Rs 1.18-lakh crore Thiruvananthapuram-Mangalore high-speed passenger corridor project, the most ambitious project ever envisaged by the state government, has received two major blows in the form of mounting protests and the rupee decline.
Protests led by the Anti-High Speed Rail Corridor Committee, Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishath and various other organisations are intensifying in various districts. The Anti-High Speed Rail Corridor Committee recently submitted a petition before the parliamentary committee on travel, tourism and transport against the project. The response to the petition is awaited.
The estimate of the project was prepared when Indian rupee was at 55 against the US dollar, but because of depreciation, the project would now incur an additional cost of about Rs 27,000 crore.
Agitators claim that around 60,000 houses would be brought down and 2.5 lakh people displaced if the project is implemented.
Brushing aside all the odds, the Kerala High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited is moving ahead with the project. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is preparing the detailed project report (DPR) for the project and it is expected to be submitted by December.
T Balakrishnan, chairman and managing director, Kerala High Speed Rail Corporation Limited, said since the survey has not been completed in many parts of the state, the DPR will only be ready by December.
“The fall of Indian currency would definitely push the cost of the project further. The viability of the project depends solely on the DPR,” he said. Japan’s Jica is expected to fund 80 per cent of the project cost while the Centre and state governments will have to meet the remaining expenses jointly.
The project was cleared by the state cabinet in February 2010. In September 2011, a special purpose vehicle, the Kerala High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (KHSRC) was formed to implement the project. The train will have a speed of 300 km per hour and will reach Mangalore from Thiruvananthapuram in 156 minutes.
Advocate V M Michael, coordinator, Anti-High Speed Rail Corridor Committee, said district committees were formed in Kannur, Kozhikode, Thrissur, Malappuram, Ernakulam and Kottayam districts against the project and the protests would intensify in the days to come.
“The state government should abandon the project as this is in no way beneficial to Kerala. We only see vested business interests of some people behind this project,” he said.
C P Hareendran, former state committee member, Kerala Sasthra Sahitya Parishath, who led the protest against the project in Kannur recently, said instead of high-speed rail, electrification and signal modifications on existing lines should be given top priority.