New Delhi: Kerala has urged the Centre to allot a Vande Bharat semi-high speed train service for the state. The request was made by Finance Minister K N Balagopal during a pre-budget meeting of finance ministers of the states convened by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Kerala has sought a Vande Bharat service which would be useful for IT professionals, business persons and traders to travel within and outside the state frequently. Balagopal told the meeting that the Vande Bharat service could take the route of the Kannur – Thiruvananthapuram Jan Shatabdi Express after removing some curves on the railway line.
Meanwhile, Kerala also requested the Centre for a speedy approval of the SilverLine semi- high speed railway project, special funding package for Kochi Metro, setting up of a coaching terminal at Nemom and construction of a broad gauge line between Thalassery and Mysuru.
When reporters pointed out that Vande Bharat would be unnecessary for Kerala when SilverLine became functional, Balagopal said that all projects were needed for development.
India’s first semi-high speed train, Vande Bharat runs on self-propelled technology and does not need a separate locomotive to haul the bogies. The train can attain speeds of 130-160 kmph. Presently, there are five Vande Bharat services in India, including one on the Chennai-Mysuru route.
‘Next two years crucial’
The Kerala Minister said at meeting that the next couple of years would be crucial for the state’s economy. “There is a shortfall of Rs 23,000 crore in the state’s revenue due to the Centre’s measures. This figure will go up to Rs 32,000 crore over the coming two years,” he said.
The following are among the major demands placed by Kerala before the Centre at the meeting:
Borrowing limit: Increase the borrowing limit of the state to at least 4 per cent of the GDP for the next two years. This year, the limit was 3.5 per cent.
GST: The GST compensation period has to be extended by five years. Instead of the Centre and states equally sharing the GST collections, allot 60 per cent to states.
KIIFB: Remove borrowings through KIIFB and KSSPL from the state’s limits.
Central projects: Increase spending ratio on Central projects by Centre and states from 60:40 to 75:25 as the financial burden is heavy for states.
NRI package: A special package is sought for non-resident Indians who returned to Kerala after losing their jobs abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
AIIMS: An All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is urged in Kerala. Also set up an international Ayurveda institute at Kannur.
Traditional sectors: Announce a special package for cashew, coir, handloom, agriculture and other traditional sectors.
Kannur airport: ‘Point of call’ approval for Kannur Airport to start more international services.