HC raps Kerala govt for avoidable din over K-Rail survey

Kochi: The anti-Silver Line protests have died down, at least, for now with the Kerala Government deciding to do away with the fixing of survey stones on properties that are in the path of the proposed north-south semi high-speed rail project and instead adopt geotagging. Expressing displeasure over the earlier government action that led to vehement protests, some violent too, the High Court remarked that it was needless when it could have carried out the process in a low-key way.

The survey stones bearing the mark K-Rail were being laid on properties in the name of conducting Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for the rail project. People who feared their land would be taken over for building the railway corridor resorted to protests across the State and challenged police. Considering the public mood, the government recently ordered the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Ltd (K-Rail) which is behind the ambitious project to stop laying survey stones.

The SIA should be done silently if the government is serious about continuing with the project, Judge Justice Devan Ramachandran said on Tuesday, while considering a petition filed by a group of land owners.

According to the court, large stones were unnecessary for a social-impact study. If the stones were of the size suggested by the court in its interim ruling of December 2021, the reactions of the people would have been mild. “In that case, clearance for the project may have been issued in February or March this year,” said the judge.

The court also pointed out that the Central Government, initially, had not opposed the project. However, when severe protests were witnessed, the Centre had a relook into the details regarding the project.

The government informed the court that instruction had been given to the authorities to employ digital survey in areas where there is opposition to the physical conduct of the SIA.

It was then that the Judge had reminded the government of the earlier warning given by the court on the matter.

NH development

Referring to the land acquisition for the development of the National Highway from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram, the court pointed out that there was no controversy. This was because the government could convince the people about the necessity of the work, the judge said.

Such an effort was absent regarding SilverLine, the court added.

Officials warned

When the court stayed the laying of stones with ‘K-Rail’ markings on December 23 last year, the Survey Director issued an order to bypass the court ruling. The High Court sought an explanation from the government on the matter.

Some officials believe that they are above the law. Such officials should be disciplined, said the court.

The court will hear the case next time on June 2, the date on which the government advocate has been asked to furnish the reply.

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