Thiruvananthapuram: Vehement public protests against the SilverLine project commenced as soon as the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd (K-Rail) began to lay survey stones on identified properties as part of the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) study. When the state government ordered the cessation of stonelaying in view of the fierce resistance the other day, this work was completed only along a distance of 190 km out of the total 530 km-long railway corridor envisaged by the project.
Out of the 6,300 stones that were erected, more than 350 were removed by protesters, according to official figures. The K-Rail has so far spent Rs 81 lakh for the stonelaying along the north-south stretch through which the railway line to run semi-high speed trains will be laid.
The highest number of stones were laid in the Kasaragod district: 1,651. covering 42.6 km. It is followed by Kannur, 1,130 stones along a distance of 36.9km.
The proposed SilverLine project will pass through 11 districts. But not a single stone could be erected in Pathanamthitta.
As per the proposed path around 200 km passes through the land of Indian Railways. It was earlier itself decided not to install survey stones here. In the remaining 330-odd km, stones were laid along the 190 km for the social impact assessment study as claimed by the authorities.
The SIA study could not be started in areas where the stonelaying work was obstructed by irate public. It had started only in Kasaragod, Kannur, Malappuram, Ernakulam and Kollam districts, and pending in the remaining six districts.
The K-Rail had earlier stated that the stones were being laid as per the Kerala Survey and Boundaries Act, 1961.
With the announcement of revoking stonelaying on Monday, its Managing Direcor Ajit Kumar claimed this method was adopted as it has been the practice in Kerala to lay stones first before undertaking civil works, though it is not mandatory.
Now, the K-Rail has decided to adopt geo-tagging method or put up marks on the walls of existing properties.
The stone-laying had been earlier unofficially halted after the protests intensified. No stone had been laid anywhere after the Thrikkakara bypoll was announced early this month. But K-rail claimed that stonelaying has not been halted and will be resorted to if the property owner doesn't object.
What will happen to the cases?
With the government itself declaring that stonelaying is not mandatory, the government now has to decide the fate of the cases slapped on those who protested against it. Cases were filed against hundreds of people, and several were jailed. According to the SilverLine Virudha Janakeeya Samithi, cases were filed against around 500 people.
The alignment for the SilverLine project was determined two years ago after conducting the aerial LiDar (Light Detection and Ranging) survey. A small aircraft, fitted with the LiDar device, flew from Kochuveli to Kasaragod, and images up to a width of 600 m were taken. And this was converted into data of 25 m width on both sides.
But now, it has been proposed to locate areas within the alignment limit using satellites and carry out a study with the help of GPS and differential GPS technology. The directive is to use geo-tagging and demarcate the boundaries by marking structures such as a wall, tree or building.