Silverline project: Mystery shrouds organised laying of survey stones
The practice of erecting survey stones to denote land parcels to be surveyed as part of feasibility study is not common in the state.
Published: 20th March 2022 04:34 AM | Last Updated: 20th March 2022 04:34 AM | A+A A-
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: While officials and K-Rail personnel are marching ahead in villages and towns with trucks full of yellow-coloured cylindrical survey stones, volunteers of various NGOs assigned to do social impact assessment (SIA) are visiting affected households and speaking to people about their concerns about the project.
According to a Payyannur native, whose house is likely to be acquired, two volunteers of Kerala Voluntary Health Services --- assigned in Kannur district --- visited his house recently with a questionnaire. They had a map and sketch with them, and the buildings likely to be affected were marked on them.
In the 11 districts through which the semi high-speed rail corridor passes, SIA has been progressing and none of the agencies is bothered whether there is a survey stone or not in the affected region. The practice of erecting survey stones to denote land parcels to be surveyed as part of feasibility study is not common in the state.
“We used to carry out studies by visiting houses and organising public hearing. We are guided by maps and survey numbers, and not any survey stones,” said an NGO worker who was active in carrying out SIA in the flyover projects of Thiruvananthapuram.
The crux of the lengthy argument by Advocate General Gopalakrishna Kurup before the High Court division bench comprising Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly was about protecting the government’s right to lay survey stones, that too not in the specified pattern as per the Kerala Survey and Boundaries Rules, 1964, in the properties where SIA needs to be conducted for the Silverline project.
The bench upheld the government’s right to lay survey stones not only for demarcation ahead of acquisition, but for identifying properties to be part of impact assessment in an order dated February 14, by overruling a single bench order that stayed the laying of survey stone for SIA.
“The purpose of EIA and SIA is to check the feasibility of a project. Whether the project needs to be carried out or not will be decided only after analysing the findings of EIA and SIA. It may be true that rules allow lying of stones, but the spirit of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 doesn’t endorse this style. The perspective of the Act is to give priority to the interests of the affected people and environment. The government should have avoided the act of laying survey stones in properties even before getting Union government’s final clearance,” said legal expert Kaleeswaram Raj.
Environmentalist Sridhar Radhakrishnan said the agenda of organised laying of survey stones is bigger than what most people think.“As far as I know, hectic efforts to get loan from JICA for the project have started. The international agencies will sanction loan only if hurdles such as land acquisition are completed. They want to show that 80% of acquisition is complete to pitch for the loan. This exercise is nothing, but a camouflaged land acquisition,” said Sridhar.
However, during the argument of the case in the HC, advocate general repeatedly said the ongoing study is about feasibility and not an acquisition process. The CJ has taken the argument in good faith. Another interesting aspect of the judgment is that the court didn’t allow placing of survey stones in the land to be acquired from railways as additional solicitor general had objected to it.