Old Parrikar video threatens to derail railway line doubling project in Goa
Even as Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant insists that the doubling of the Goa stretch of South Western Railway line is not being done to ferry more coal and that his predecessor Manohar Parrikar wasn’t opposed to the doubling, an old video in which the former chief minister is seen speaking against the double tracking of railway line has gone viral in the state.
On Monday, Sawant had categorically stated that his predecessor was not opposed to the projects he is now pushing for.
The video, dating back to the year 2013, when Parrikar was the chief minister and the UPA -II government was on its last legs, shows Parrikar alleging corruption and private benefit behind the doubling project.
“South Western Railway wants to double the railway line. The Goa government does not want the double tracking. We are very clear, we will not give any permission for double tracking. I’m very clear,” Parrikar is heard saying
“It is basically being double tracked because of MPT’s coal. There, through fraud, they have given 2-3 companies coal berths to handle coal... they have eaten money. Through privatization, they have given berths for handling coal at MPT. To shift that coal, this double tracking is proposed. Those industries are asking for it. I don’t need double tracking. Single tracking can be efficiently used,” Parrikar had said.
Parrikar’s words have come to haunt Sawant, who has staunchly defended the project in the face of rising opposition and protests claiming that the doubling is in national interest and is not being done for coal transportation, something that people opposing the projects are refusing to believe.
The Mormugao Port Trust has leased out three berths -- 5A and 6A to(SWPL), a subsidiary of JSW Infrastructure and berth 7A to Adani Mormugao Port Terminal Private Limited (AMPTL). Berths 6A and 7A are exclusively used for coal handling by JSW and Adani, which then shift the coal via rail to steel mills in north Karnataka.
“We are not permitting to double the track. We have refused permission. I’m not going to allow [it]. Double line will not be permitted in Goa, we don’t need it,” Parrikar had said.
For his part, Parrikar as the chief minister and chairman of the State Board for Wildlife had rejected a proposal from the South Western Railway, albeit a proposal different from the one being currently pursued to the extent that it was proposed along a different alignment.
The Goa State Wildlife Board had earlier in the year 2013 rejected a proposal to construct a separate railway line through a different alignment, one which had an easier gradient, but would involve fresh disturbance in an entirely virgin area of forest.
The railways then submitted a fresh proposal to the state wildlife board to double the track along the existing route which was processed during the tenure of former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar and finally approved by Pramod Sawant earlier this year.
In 2010, the ministry of Railways sanctioned the doubling of the existing Hospet-Tinaighat-Vasco railway line in the states of Karnataka and Goa. The first phase between Hospet and Tinai ghat involved easier terrain atop the largely flat Deccan plateau and has already been completed. It’s the second phase between Tinaighat and Vasco da Gama that involves crossing the steep slopes, raging rivers and the thick forests of the Western Ghats as well as densely populated areas of coastal Goa that’s being contested fearing destruction to the fragile Western Ghats ecology as well as pollution resulting from increased coal transportation.