“The 277.3 km long eight-lane greenfield project connecting Chennai and Salem under the Centre’s ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ scheme, will stimulate growth like the Mumbai-Pune and Delhi-Agra expressway projects” these are the words of Edappadi Palanisamy in Tamil Nadu assembly when he defended the Salem 8 lane ‘Green Expressway Corridor’.
“The access-controlled green expressway corridor between Salem and Chennai along the stretch of 274 km will come up at a cost of Rs 10,000 crore. The process for the green expressway is put on fast track. Tenders will be floated in two months.” These were the words of Union Minister for Surface Transport Nitin Gadkari, when he announced the scheme on 26 February 2018.
As reported by Savukku in part one of the Road to Perdition, this Salem 8 lane was never part of the Bharatmala Pariyojana scheme. Lets see in detail.
Six laning of the existing heavily congested Trichy-Tindivanam project was conceived way back in 2005. Sources in NHAI tell that Detailed Project Report (DPR) was prepared and tender was about to be floated. In the last minute, on the request of state government, the Trichy-Tindivanam 6 laning was completely dropped, added that source.
The letter addressed by the TN government in this regard is kept under wraps and not disclosed. In the D.O letter addressed by Edappadi Palanisamy on 25.02.2018 to Union Minister for Road Transport, Palanisamy mentions as follows “I also reiterate the request made in my D.O. letter dated 15.12.2017 (and detailed in Government letter dated 29.1.2018) for in-principle declaration of twenty two State Roads as new National Highways at the earliest”
The letters dated 15.12.2017 and 29.01.2018 were specificially asked not to be revealed says a source in TN information department.
Bharatmala Pariyojana scheme was a flagship scheme of the Modi government just in the lines of Golden Quadrilateral scheme of Vajpayee.
The introduction to Bharatmala scheme says, “Bharatmala Pariyojana is a new umbrella program for the highways sector that focuses on optimizing efficiency of freight and passenger movement across the country by bridging critical infrastructure gaps through effective interventions like development of Economic Corridors, Inter Corridors and Feeder Routes, National Corridor Efficiency Improvement, Border and International connectivity roads, Coastal and Port connectivity roads and Green-field expressways. A total of around 24,800 kms are being considered in Phase I.”
The key document, which is not in public domain, accessed exclusively by savukku, further goes on to say, “Bharatmala has been launched as a new umbrella program whose primary focus is on optimizing the efficiency of the movement of goods and people across the country. This program envisages a corridor approach in place of the existing package-based approach which has, in many cases, resulted in skewed development.”
Phase.I of Bharatmala scheme is to be implemented over a period of five years from i.e. 2017-18 to 2021-22. Development of Economic corridors, inter-corridor and feeder roads, National corridors efficiency improvements, border & international connectivity roads, coastal and port connectivity roads and Green-Field expressways are included in the first phase.
The criteria for “Green-field expressways” under Bharatmala is that “Certain sections of National and economic corridors have traffic exceeding 50,000 PCUs and have also developed several choke points. About 1,900 km of these stretches have been identified for development of green-field expressways. Around 800 kms are being taken up under this category in Phase-I of Bharatmala.”
Not even a single kilometer in the 800 kilometer finds place inside Tamil Nadu as per the Bharatmala scheme. Further one of the main condition for express greenway is “Stretches with ease of land acquisition and pre-construction activities” (emphasis supplied). The new proposed 8 lane would by no stretch of imagination fit under the category “ease of land acquisition”. It is pertinent to note that the state intelligence has in a detailed report ‘red-flagged’ the project citing potential law and order threats.
When Bharatmala project was first conceived in 16 June 2017, the following guideline among others were stipulated. “Status of land acquisition, rehabilitation & resettlement, shifting of utilities and obtaining of environmental clearances should be stated upfront, together with the likely date of completion of these activities. No project is to be awarded without confirming availability of 80% of land for Private Public Partnership (PPP) projects and 90% for Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) projects.” (emphasis supplied).
The identification of projects for Bharatmala was done over a considerable period of time for 9000 kms. The routes / projects were identified by conducting a thorough scientific study. The methods adopted for the study are Total Station Survey, LiDAR, Visual Inspection and Ground Penetrating Radar.
The identification of corridors was also done in a scientific manner viz. Commodity-wise survey of freight movement across 600 districts, mapping of shortest route for 12,000 routes carrying 90% of the freight, Technology-based automated traffic surveys over 1500+ points across the country and satellite mapping of corridors to identify upgradation requirements.
With regard to Chennai, analysis was made and it was identified that Hyderabad, Pondicherry, Erode, Bangalore and Bellary are the top importing districts and Hyderabad, Pondicherry, Bengalore, Vijayawada and Mumbai as the top exporting districts.
In this analysis, Salem nowhere finds a place. Further the analysis revealed that 20% traffic was coming from Bangalore and 20% traffic from Bangalore. Similarly 48% of traffic goes out from Chennai to Kolkatta and 14% to Madurai and 37% to Bangalore respectively.
Similarly using several methods, economic corridors were identified and Chennai-Kurnool is identified as EC 17 and Chennai-Madurai as EC.19. But, no effort has been made to widen the existing Chennai-Madurai route. Instead, the 6 laning of Tindivanam-Trichy has been dropped which is against the findings of various scientific studies.
In a plan to develop Multi-Modal Logistics Parks, research was done and Chennai and Coimbatore alone were identified among the total 24 logistics parks in the country accounting for 45% of India’s road freight.
Among the cities identified for ring roads under ‘Decongestion of Corridor Network’, Madurai alone finds place in the list of 28 cities identified under this category.
Intermodal Stations for Passenger movement was also researched and identified. Chennai and Madurai alone find a place in Tamil Nadu.
In a memorandum presented by Edappadi Palanisamy to Union Minister for Road Transport on 23.11.2017, he said this “Since Bharatmala Pariyojana is a 5 year plan, the projects suggested by the Government of Tamil Nadu above may be assigned top priority and taken up in the first year itself.”
There is no mention of the 8 lane Salem project in this memorandum.
TN CM Edappadi Palanisamy in his D.O letter dated 25.02.2018 says, “I request that this proposal may be examined and in-principle sanction may kindly be considered for inclusion of the proposed alignment from Chennai to Salem as a green corridor, under “Bharatmala Pariyojana‟ Programme.”
How did Palanisamy thought that a newly conceived whimsical project would fit in the ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana” remains a mystery. And how Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, overnight found that this is a project that would fit into ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ which has been conceived / planned after thorough scientific research remains a ‘million rupee’ question literally.
People who are about to lose their livelihood and land are furious about this project and are already up in arms.
DMK has planned a major protest on 26th of June at Salem and TTV.Dinakaran is to follow suit say sources. Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss, has announced plans to visit all the villages that are about to be affected by this project.
The All India Kisan Sabha has taken up this issue and has announced a series of protest.
But, all Edappadi Palanisamy can think of is to muzzle down protest with police.
“The greater the power, the more danger the abuse” said Edmund Burke. Edappadi Palanisamy is no exception.