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Sunday, June 20

Claim-game lolz

Story: Bakery Junction flyover inaugurated in Trivandrum early this week.

The ubiquitous no of street-smart cyber-journos in Trivandrum makes sure that the event is covered well and published like instant coffee! Full set of pictures at Ajay's Trivandrum Rising as usual. 

Credits: This one belongs to whom? The picture below may help, courtesy @jlusujith. The flexboard on the left heralds the Right stalwarts as the 'architects' of the Capital Road Improvement Project in 2003 and the board on right featuring the happy Left CM claims credits for 'finishing' the job. Confused?

Dedication: To all people of Kerala, especially the people of Trivandrum. this one also claims that Kerala and Trivandrum are in a development-dash. Ok, thanks! :-)

image courtesy Sujith. T. John

Factfile: Half a kilometer long, 2 laned flyover. 5 years in making. 

Juxtapose: Bangalore and Hyderabad completed nearly 2 dozen flyovers and underpasses in the last decade. Not bringing in Chennai or Delhi here for comparison because it'll be an insult. Apart from the Bakery Flyover only two similar projects were fructified in Kerala, one being the Palayam underpass, an extended appendage of the Bakery flyover and the other, the Arayidathupalam Flyover in Calicut.

Background: The TRDCL project was initiated by the Antony Govt in 2003 after public pressure against the zero-development in infrastructure in Trivandrum. A total of 42 km of roads were to be developed including one underpass and 2 flyovers.

Total project cost: 250 crore (including cost of land acquisition)
Time frame: 3 years (was to be completed in Nov 2006)

The idea was that the total project amount will be dispensed in 3 installments through allocations in the state budget. Punj Lloyd won the bid, commenced the work. But the global conglomerate had to fill hours scrapping the rust off their heavyweight machinery because the authorities failed to acquire and handover the land required for road works. So they packed up and left North.

Enter the LDF Govt. Minister Vijayakumar took interest, most of the land issues were sorted out. Work recommenced and hurray! We can fly-over Bakery at last!! :-)

Hold on...This is not the end of it all. There is another one proposed over the MG Road connecting Power House Road to Thakarapparambu Road. The Minister joked that the works will be over by 2011 October, ya, in another year!  lolz, this one involves relocation of scores of big businesses including the Big Bazzar shopping center and major shifting of utilities. The 3-year Capital Development Project is going to spill over into the hands of the 3rd successive Government! Given the 5-year plan we saw with Bakery Jn project,  there is no guarantee that a motorcycle would cross over the Powerhouse Road flyover in 2016, unless its equipped with jetwings.

A lot of good works have been done, we have to appreciate that. Even though there have been ZERO new projects to develop any new roads within the rapidly developing cities. Even though Mr. Vijayakumar is heralded as the patron-saint for Trivandrum the other road development works outside TRDCL are still stuck exactly where he took over in 2006.

Did he think that there was nothing else to look after apart from the 42km stretches included in CRIP?
In 2001, Trivandrum had 3000 souls working at Technopark. 10 years down it is touching 30,000. The NH Bypass which was a dream track for race-freaks, now see bumper-to-bumper traffic at peak hours. The Ulloor- Sreekaryam Road is just unbelievable! Still a modest 2 lane road holding 6 lane traffic, this is the lone way to reach the Medical College for ambulances and emergency vehicles. Widening of a 5km road connecting Ulloor- Akkulam with NH Bypass, which commenced in 1999, still hasn't gone one step further. Everyone forgot the MC Road works until Nalanchira for 4 years but suddenly some people got a brainwave from nowhere.

The only other project which appear promising is the 6-laning of the Karamana- Kaliyikkavila stretch of NH47. Here again, the onus of land acquisition falls on the State Govt. One of the busiest and congested stretches of highways in Kerala; its anyone's guess when the actual road-works would commence.

The reason I hear is that 'we are special'. Special in what sense? Be it highway development, city roads development, flyovers and underpasses, IT Parks or SEZs, the excuse is that 'Kerala is a special case'.

Special in population density, they say.  A mere glance at figures from elsewhere cripples that argument.

Bangalore planned and built a 4 lane 9.5km  Electronics City Flyover in 4 years. The 11.6km P.V.Narasimha Roa Expressway in Hyderabad passes over the most congested parts of the huge metropolis. Chennai and Delhi puts us to shame with the no of flyovers, underpasses and roads they build every year. Bangalore's population density is twice as that of any Kerala city, so that's not where the shoe pinches us.

Bangalore Elevated Tollway

When you look at the rehabilitation packages for evictees things become clear. People are sent packing by paying them a small fraction of the existing market rates and this embroils down to agitations, political foulplays, court litigation and so on. How many times have we seen this happen.

 Look at the Trivandrum International Airport and things become more clear. The landmark terminal is ready for commissioning, but the land needed for the next phases of development is yet to be acquired. There appears to be no honest efforts to get the land in Govt's possession and hand it over to AAI. This is extremely crucial for furthur expansion of the Airport and also for the crucial Cargo Complex. But our leaders appear to act napping whenever someone mentions it.

Vote bank...cold feet.

The same reason why we see 'all-party delegations' leave for New Delhi to bring in collateral damage.

Perhaps we must look back at history to see how the volatile issues related to land acquisition of VSSC in Thumba were sorted out diplomatically, including St. Martin's Church on the 600 acre grounds. A few tombstones are in the way of Airport Road in Pattoor for a Jupiter-year now, and the living souls pay the price. We know what we lack: a clever futuristic leader with a straight spine who genuinely cares for the future of our state.

In 2020 Chandigarh, Pune, Mangalore, Surat and Mysore would've had their infrastructure issues sorted out in a big way. Trivandrum, Cochin, Calicut and Trichur will still be crawling its way through, consuming decades building half-mile bridges.

Kerala is a 'special' case, so be it.

Bakery Flyover image courtesy
BETL image courtesy skyscrapercity

Sunday, June 13

Granites galore!

Attention Keralaites! The year of the 'stone' has begun in Kerala. Just after the celebration of an unprecedented 4 years in office, Chief Minister Comrade Achuthanandan and collegues have kick started a nomadic state-trotting with a spree of inaugurations and foundation stone laying pan-Kerala. Yakkooo...At this rate the busybody ministers will be totally exasperated and the sculptors will have blisters on their palms by early 2011.

Not funny, but the CM's driver is on a well-deserved sickness leave, courtesy H1N1.

Comrade Achuthanandan and his PR Dept surely must've had a real hard time formatting the media ads to herald the 'achievements' of the Govt. Apart from the CM's smiling face, the artifact commie symbol and the corresponding Minister-in-charge, there was nothing significant to fill the page for many portfolios.

Minister Vijayakumar laid the second foundation stone (on top of the one he laid in 2001) for the development of Kesavadasapuram- Nalanchira Road in the capital just the other day. This was just after taking a breath from Technocity foundation stone, Infopark Phase II foundation stone (remember, the Smart City stone which VS laid in 2006 is still somewhere around hidden beneath bushes), Vytilla Mobility hub stone, Cyberpark stone, and a plethora of other tactics fabricated to fool the public. I won't be surprised if a fresh granite is carved for Smart City, guessing by some of the recent statements from the CM. And as TRDCL works in the Capital near completion, the city may well be choked with a plethora of inaugurations very soon.

What has this Govt given the young and unemployed ever since V.S. over-ceremoniously took over from Chandy?

It's and easy, single-word: n-o-t-h-i-n-g!

A mere look back at the promises V.S made just after assuming the power now is all set to bite the man back. From naming the V.I.P in Kilirur case, locking up all criminals and goondas within 2 months, to claiming the Govt land back from land-grabbers, anything which V.S touched scalded his own hands and burned the butt of his party, be it the Munnar fiasco which he himself admitted as a flop, the Smart City or any other project which he initiated. VS must be a modern day Midas because anything he himself involved in, as well as the other ministers touched also seem to freeze instantaneously. Look at Shobha Hi-Tech City, Salarpuria Knowledge City, HDIL Cyber City, Kinaloor and whatever, they're all dead ducks.

Four years have gone by and the Govt is still at sea with the socially crucial Private Professional College issue. Every year we hear some announcements and statements from the minister-in-charge which turn out to be mere lines drawn on water.

Lately, the Centrally-sponsored multi-million project of developing the TS Canal and connecting it to the National Waterway in Kollam has lapsed because those concerned never bothered to do their work. I don't see any minister or official worried about it, a project which could have hugely beneficial to thousands of ordinary people, apart from giving a major boost to the economy of the state. The national and local media reported the incessant lapse of funds many times, and in the end 2000 crores went unutilised. Who is responsible? 

The less we speak about the Highway Development saga unfolding, the better. We have lost 4 years purely due to the tomfoolery of V.S and his party ideologies, and it is almost certain that the ongoing 30m-45m dilly-dally will see the crucial project won't begin this year. And if the Congress Govt assumes power next time, the Commies are sure to let out the goons and gangs loose against land acquisition. I'd bet my house on that.

3.75 crore Keralites will lose out but why bother? Everyday 7 precious lives are lost on our highway alters, 2 dozens mutilated or handicapped but who cares? The rotten teeter-board politics we practice in this state will take us to the dooms.

CPM's backpedal on the ADB loan, Coca-cola, Expressway project, Smart City,  Professional College issue etc has underlined one fact. The Communist parties infest Kerala only to fudge out their slow poison into this land. Nobody at AKG Center or AKG Bhavan is genuinely bothered about the development or future of the state, they're ready to play any dirty games in the name of pseudo-socialism, just to gain political mileage.

Industrial development has almost come to a standstill in the state. That's not surprising at all. The Govt still speaks about PSUs and traditional industries like coir, fisheries and co as saviours. Oh c'mon, you want all the graduated, unemployed youth out of those colleges go out to open sea and start fishing?  The only other viable option I see (apart from escaping to Bangalore or Gelf) is joining the 'Quotation Gangs' which have expanded into thriving livelihood options even in small towns and villages. May be this is what Darwin meant by 'survival of the fittest'.

The major initiatives like the Brahmos, BEML etc have purely been Central Govt initiatives. Same with the case of premier institutions like IIST, National Maritime University or IISER. Other major projects like Vallarpadom Container Terminal and the LNG Terminal are heading towards commissioning, also nothing for the LDF Govt to lay hands on. Achuthanandan Govt has little to claim when it comes to new initiatives in any front in the state. Though the regime has been working honest and hard to get Vizhinjam Port off the mark, it is still some time away from realization. But I'd bet again that the granite will be up vertical in Vizhinjam with all the names on it.

And in the coming few months we will see more and more heavyweight 'stones' being laid, my strong guesses lie with International Airports of Kannur, Aranmula, Kottayam and Idukki. Also spare a few granites for the IT Parks planned in all 200 taluks of the state, also please don't forget to put one for Cochin Metro before you leave. Shall I also suggest some stones and ribbon-cutting for some bridges, roads, parks, sulabh toilets, health centers, bus shelters, traffic signals and fish markets. Anyone with a  knows that it will be all like stones in the water. The ship will go down.

How strikingly different has been the CM Achutanandan from the robust and revolting Opposition Leader we all knew! Pinarayi and team managed to tame the wild lion into a pussycat. But V.S has managed to hang on, we should give him that. He has manged what he always yearned for: to sit in that reverent chair on the III floor, North Block, Secretariat. But the important question is how did it benefit us Keralites?

Our politicians may not realize, or may not want to accept that the sand is slowly draining from under our feet. With virtually no sources of income being found for day-to-day chores, how long can Kerala afford to crawl? When other states are marching ahead with hundreds of job opportunities created every month, we're still boasting about the cliched Kerala-model. Migration and associated remittances from abroad have ensured that Kerala society doesn't crumble and fall into a state of civil-unrest. GoK plans to suck dry the NRI tits for its survival and has no back-up plans to set the foundations strong and straight.

This leaves us in a very precarious situation where Kerala State doesn't have a penny for social welfare, road works, water supply or poverty eradication projects without the burden of loans from foreign banks or begging in front of the Center. Remember the situation in 2001 when E.K Nayanar left the chair to A.K.Antony without a nickel in the treasury. Well, Achumama may well step down leaving us deep and buried.

For me the biggest achievements of the current LDF regime was that both Kairali TV and Deshabhimani  could build their multi-crore headquarters in the prime-most locales of Trivandrum city.

Kairali Towers, close to MLA Quarters, Trivandrum

So even for the staunchest commie supporter the previous 4 years will not have much to dance around about. Perhaps we will see the CM laugh again after the 2011 Assembly polls the same way he famously laughed after the 2009 Parliament results. Its not long away dear CM, you may better get all your stones carved out and set before the Code of Conduct is formally in place. Good luck! :-)

Images courtesy,, fotolia.