Finally, Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail) has come around to the view that survey stones need not be forcefully planted to mark the boundaries for the SilverLine project. Following a submission by the K-Rail, the Revenue Department has directed the company on Monday to either use the Geo-tagging method or mark on permanent structures to notify the boundaries of the project.
This was the advice most railway experts like E Sreedharan, Alok Kumar Verma and even the Railway Board had given. A staunch project supporter, former member of the Railway Board Subodh Jain, too had said that GPS technology was a better bet than the placement of survey stones. Yet, the K-Rail went ahead with inserting 15 cm x 90 cm cylindrical stones on private lands unmindful of public protests, and on most occasions using force to remove protesters.
In fact, the laying of survey stones had stopped the moment the Thrikkakara by-election was notified. Like in the case of a temporary freeze on fuel price hikes during election time, it was felt that the process would begin once the election was over on May 31.
Instead, in a surprise move, the planting of stones has been done away with. It was on May 5 that the K-Rail had written to the government of the difficulties it was facing as a result of the "violent public protests and resistance". Ironically, the K-Rail also said that "the alignment can be easily established in the field by GPS coordinates using DGPS (Differential Global Positioning System) survey equipment or mobile phones with GPS facility."
It then offered to plant survey stones where there was consent and mark on permanent structures where there was dissent. The government, in turn, asked the K-Rail to completely avoid the planting of stones.
The boundaries are marked as part of the social impact assessment that has to be carried out under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, better known as the LARR Act.
The plan is to acquire 1221 hectares of land for the semi high rail speed project. The acquisition will begin only after the Union Ministry of Railways approves the project.
The critics of the project argue that the SIA, environment impact assessment, final location survey, and geological and hydrological surveys should have been part of the DPR. Even experts who support the project had conceded that the existing DPR, prepared by Paris-based Systra, is not even 30% complete.