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Kerala Silver Line follows 'exploitative' Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train agenda

Counterview Desk 

An “urgent appeal”, floated by the top civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), and addressed to the national leadership of CPI(M) seeking to scrap Kerala’s controversial Silver Line Project, has said, the “decision to build a humongous semi high speed rail corridor from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram” is proving to be a “a symbol of the hyper neo-liberal and economy depleting agenda.”
Pointing out that the project has seen massive and widespread protests of common people and organizations from all over the State since many months, the appeal, which is seeking signatures from concerned citizens, believes it would lead to “huge social and environmental costs”, hence it should be withdrawn forthwith”.

Text:

It is with utmost shock and concern that we see the latest developments in Kerala, the only state where the Left forces still hold fort in India. The proposal of the Government of Kerala, under the leadership of Comrade Pinarayi Vijayan, to build a humongous semi high speed rail corridor from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram, named the Silver Line is seeing massive and widespread protest of common people from all over the state.
We have been viewing the various responses, including protests and jathas, from the villages and towns through which this rail line passes, and they cannot be simply passed over as “politically motivated”. We understand and fully recognize that they are genuine community voices, and many of them are voices from the same people who stood strongly with the Left Democratic Front and many had voted LDF to power. These voices need to be read as warning signals. We also see the shift of these people into other political options, including the right wing, which should be of grave concern to the ruling LDF.
We are also well aware of the voices of many of the co-travellers of the political left – social scientists, economists, civil society movements, environmentalists, engineers, development leaders, writers, cultural leaders, journalists and even those members of the society that carry the legacy of our erstwhile leaders, both by blood and by sweat. All of them have voiced their clear opinion against going ahead with this project. All of them have also made it clear they are not against ‘development’, but this project is not the development that this state needs, rather it is destructive on its precarious ecology , environmental issues related to the flood affected state, and on the economy, which is already in shambles following the unprecedented shocks of recurring floods, landslides, and the pandemic.
The Government, we understand has been clearly warned, repeatedly and persistently, of the various pitfalls of this project. Its huge cost and duration of implementation, unconvincingly shown low, its miserably poor project documents replete with inadequacies, data manipulation, deficient methodologies, and even data fudging, are all now too well known. Development economists of repute have challenged the financial viability of this project with the proponents' own data. Expert railway engineers have demonstrated that this project is technically not viable with the datasets given in the DPR. Environmental experts have exposed the massive impacts this project could inflict on the highly vulnerable ecosystems and landscape of Kerala.
EIA ( Environmental Impact Assessment), SIA ( Social Impact Assessment), evaluation of technical and financial feasibility of the project are yet to be completed. Before all these activities it is not at all fair and just to push the project ahead, that too by use of police forces to suppress the resistances from common people.
Communist parties and Left should desist from falling into same line of thinking as other neo-liberal parties
Ironically, the CPI-M itself, through its party mouthpiece has pointed out the neo-liberal and exploitative nature of a similar project that runs between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. It is indeed shocking to see the same CPI-M using all means, including coercion to silence the strong voices of their own protest leaders. They are seen desperately trying to explain why these two projects are 'different'! 
It’s true one is a High Speed rail and the other is a Semi High speed rail, but the issue was never about the speed. It was about the economic design of the project – the Japanese funding and technology deal, the PPP model, the systematic wrecking of the public sector Indian railways, the land acquisition issues, the environmental issues and worse the huge financial burden that both these projects will transfer to the common people.
We strongly feel that the communist parties and the left, especially the CPI-M and the CPI should desist from falling into the same line of thinking as the other neo-liberal parties in India, especially where they are in power. 
It should chart a development path that continues to be equitable and inclusive of both the people, the environment and the delicate economy of a rural India. It should not toe the line of corporate-driven agenda, a trap that the Central Govt. seems to have thrown to the LDF in Kerala, and which the LDF seems to be walking into.
We earnestly request that the Silver Line project, a symbol of the hyper neo-liberal and economy depleting agenda, be scrapped forthwith. We request that the State Government of Kerala return back to its roots of a people-centric and inclusive development agenda.

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