The State Government is in search of a new plot for the proposed wagon factory at Cherthala when 60 acres of land owned by Autokast is lying unused for years and the proposal for a component factory is waiting to materialise.
Railways had proposed to come out with fabricated rail bogies and then it had been changed to manufacture cast steel aluminium bogies at Autokast. A memorandum of understanding was signed in June 2008 and a share holders’ agreement was signed in February 2009. It is alleged that the move to acquire a new plot for the wagon factory was to torpedo the Autokast’s component factory and the acquired land is to be given to private parties.
Railways had already informed that the wagon factory would be on a private-public-partnership mode. P Sasikumar, secretary, All Kerala Silk Employees Union, said that though Rs 85 crore was set aside in the railway budget in 2007-08, the project remains a nonstarter. The Railways Infrastructure Technical and Economic Services (RITES) conducted a study and reported that Railways needed steel cast bogies and Autokast could provide the components for it. ‘’Now there are attempts to privatise the wagon factory project when there are sufficient land at Autokast. P Thilothama MLA is making an attempt to acquire land from his constituency for handing it over to private parties,’’ he alleged.
Alappuzha District Collector V Ratheeshan said that two proposals had been submitted to the government for land acquisition. The land which need less rehabilitation will be identified, he said. Thomas Isaac MLA said that the proposed wagon factory and the component factory at Autokast were different projects.
Railways have already informed that they would be able to provide a minor share for the project and a private partnership was needed. ‘’The land of Autokast was not selected as this project is in a PPP model. A tender should be floated before finalising the private player in this project,’’ he said. A meeting convened by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has decided to go for another site considering the fact that 100 families had to be evacuated.
Railways cannot take up the project in the wake of the financial crisis, he pointed out. Confusion is still prevailing over the component factory and there is a fear that the new project would hamper the earlier joint venture project.
The then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad had signed an agreement with former Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan in February 2008 for forming a joint venture company to set up a plant for the fabrication of bogie frames for passenger coaches and side and end walls for wagons.
However, the company is yet to be registered as per the terms agreed by the Railways and the Kerala Government. The capital investment for the new company was Rs 36 crore, out of which the state’s share is 49 per cent and the rest by the Railways.