THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has revoked the controversial decision which changed the category of Kerala’s highway works from ‘high priority-1’ to ‘high priority-2’.
The order which virtually stalled the highway development works in the state had stirred up a controversy with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan accusing the move as ‘politically motivated’. “The notification has been cancelled. There is no discrimination against Kerala. The problem in Kerala is that the cost of land acquisition is very high and there are houses on the roadside. So road widening is an issue and this is Kerala’s biggest problem,” said Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways.
“The Kerala Chief Minister and I sat together and decided that whatever the cost for the development of the state, we would have to do it. This priority 1 and priority 2 is wrong news. All the Bharatmala projects are underway and detailed project reports will be made. There will be no injustice towards Kerala. Clarification for the same will be issued on Friday,” Gadkari said.
The Centre changed its stand after Union Minister of State for Tourism Alphons Kannanthanam held discussions with Gadkari and NHAI chairman. The junior minister is learnt to have appraised the Centre that the CPM was politically exploiting the development.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), as part of its policy guidelines issued on April 15, had categorised highway projects into ‘high priority-1’ and ‘high priority-2’, placing the state in the second category.
According to Pinarayi, NHAI had issued directions to all its regional offices to suspend the land acquisition of all projects under the ‘priority-2’ category. NHAI had earlier asked the LDF Government in Kerala to stop the land acquisition process for the expansion of National Highway 66. Following the order, the work had to be stopped all over the state except in Kasargod. Only the Thalapady-Chengala and the Chengala-Neeleswaram stretches in Kasaragod come under the ‘priority-1’ category.