Thiruvananthapuram: Union surface transport minister Nitin Gadkari has cancelled the order deprioritising national highway development in Kerala. The termination of the order ends the controversy kicked up with the BJP State president P. S. Sreedharan Pillai's letter to stop land acquisition in some areas.
Mr Gadkari told reporters in New Delhi that NH development in the State will continue as per the ‘first priority’ list. He maintained that there is no discrimination towards Kerala.
Mr Gadkari said the notification was cancelled following the request of Union Tourism minister Alphons Kannanthanam.
"There has been no discrimination against Kerala. Further clarification will be made officially soon on the imbroglio on NH 66 development works," he said.
Within minutes of Mr Gadkari's press conference, Kannanthanam also spoke to reporters in New Delhi informing that the due recognition given to the state would continue.
Last Saturday, the three regional offices of the National Highway Authority of India got Union surface transport ministry's order stating to stop the land acquisition on the NH 66 stretch except for Kasaragod.
Only the stretches between Thalapady - Chengala and Chengala - Neeleswaram were included on the priority list. This meant that no work would be carried out in the next two years when northern districts had already completed 80 per cent and the southern districts 60 per cent of land acquisition.
It was finance minister Dr T. M. Thomas Isaac who came out on Facebook accusing Mr Pillai of playing spoilsport to derail the project.
Sensing danger, Mr Kannanthanam intervened much to the embarrassment of Mr Pillai.
Works minister G. Sudhakaran also shot off letters to NHAI officials and Mr Gadkari. The main grievance was that when they were planning to complete the NH 66 development within the next year, further delay would only cause embarrassment to the government. At the same time, Mr Sudhakaran also warned of cost escalation. Mr Gadkari had promised `25,000 crore for land acquisition in 2016....