KOCHI: With the Ministry of Railways under the BJP Government insisting that the Kerala Government bear 50 per cent of the cost of the Sabari Rail project, the State’s dream of having a railway line to the pilgrim centre will likely be shattered.
The State Government has already made it clear that it cannot raise half of the total project amount, which is estimated at `1,800 crore. Though the alignment for the proposed railway line has been completed, the Central Government is yet to consider funding the project.
Jose K Mani MP said that land acquisition for the project in Ernakulam district and alignment in Kottayam district have been completed. However, no fund was earmarked for the Sabari Rail project in this year’s Railway Budget.
“When the MPs from Kerala met Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda, they had made it clear that the fund should be provided by the Central Government as the project was conceived in 1997-98. A decision in this regard is yet to be taken by the Central Government,” he said.
Aryadan Mohammed, who is in charge of the Railways in Kerala, had informed the Central Government that it was difficult for the State to bear a portion of the total cost.
The proposed project, from Angamaly in Ernakulam district to Azhutha near Sabarimala, has a great potential for pilgrimage tourism as the line will be passing through Bharananganam.
Government chief whip P C George, who represents the Poonjar Assembly constituency, said that a dispute over funding was still on between the State and Central governments. He pointed out that the Central Government should be convinced about the need of the Sabari rail.
“There were problems with the alignment in Kottayam and Idukki districts, which delayed the preliminary works of the project. Now, all the hurdles in land acquisition and alignment have been cleared,” he said.
Now, the fund needed for land acquisition has to be mobilised as all the other formalities for the project have been completed, and some of the works have been completed from Angamaly to Kalady. As the delay in starting the project is continuing the project cost will also go up, and the Sabari Rail project could reach a dead end.
The estimated cost of the project, which stood at around Rs 570 crore when it was conceived in 1997-98, has risen to more than Rs 1,800 crore now. If materialised, the project would benefit millions of devotees visiting the Sabarimala temple and the St Alphonsa pilgrimage centre at Bharananganam.
According to former MP P T Thomas, the biggest hurdle in the implementation of the project is the alignment for rail.
“Now, it has been cleared and some of the works up to Kaladay have been completed. Though initially there was some delay in finalising the alignment later it was cleared.
“There is a move from certain quarters to review the alignment, which could delay the project further,” he alleged.