THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The second phase development of the national highway stretch from Mukkola to Karode in the district came to a standstill as local residents opposed a move to quarantine 60 migrant labourers at a camp at Kanjiramkulam. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had brought in labourers from Jharkhand to speed up the construction of the 16.3-km-long stretch from Mukkola near Vizhinjam to Karode at the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. They arrived in a bus to the labour camp readied by NHAI to quarantine them for 14 days before starting work.
However, agitators disrupted the move alleging that migrant workers may violate quarantine and mingle with local people, triggering local transmission. The protests forced NHAI to take the labourers to a lodge in the city. Though the highways authority wrote to Thiruvananthapuram Collector Navjot Khosa to resolve the issue, no action has been taken so far in favour of NHAI.
“The contractor, L&T Constructions, had mobilised workers from Jharkhand to complete the work by October,” NHAI project director P Pradeep told TNIE “We are following the quarantine norms of the health department. Doctors and healthcare workers are supporting us to ensure that no labourer violates quarantine. I had pointed out all these matters in a letter sent to the collector. But there has been no reply. Unless this issue gets resolved, more workers can’t be brought to the site,” he said.
The big hurdle earlier was, apart from a shortage of red earth to level the stretch, the unavailability of workers after many of them went to their native places during the lockdown. Unlike other road projects, NHAI is developing the stretch as a new road connecting Tamil Nadu. L&T is developing the remaining part of the stretch in Tamil Nadu too, extending till Kanyakumari. But no issue has been reported in TN as work is progressing fast, said an NHAI source.
Meanwhile, the district collector told TNIE that she would look into the issue. “I am unaware of this. But I will look into it soon,” Khosa said. NHAI had to change the deadline for the completion of the project several times, with the previous one being May 31, 2020. It was revised after the lockdown announcement. With fresh hurdles cropping up, NHAI officers doubt if even the new deadline can be met. Among the pending work are a bridge at Kanjiramkulam and landfilling at Kottukal, Thirupuram and Vlathankara. The NH widening project was started in July 2017. In addition to various underpasses and flyovers, one major bridge has been constructed across the Neyyar river near Neyyattinkara. Once commissioned, this will be the first concrete highway stretch in the state.