The Hindu, 22 March 2014, Kochi: DMRC has sought constitution of a dedicated land acquisition authority for Kochi Metro, since the process has almost stalled despite repeated extension of deadlines.
The agency’s Principal Advisor E. Sreedharan had recently spoke about the need for an authority with special powers for land acquisition. “Metro’s civil works are going on in full steam only from Aluva up to MG Road. There are only two work sites in between MG Road and Pettah because of the inordinate delay in land acquisition on South Railway Station’s approach road, SA Road and four-laning of Vyttila-Pettah road,” metro sources said.
DMRC is reportedly keen to have a special officer appointed at the helm of the authority on the lines of a dedicated unit headed by former Ernakulam Collector Gyanesh Kumar, constituted a decade ago to fast-track infrastructure projects in Kerala. Apart from widening roads, the authority would be vested with powers to remove encroachers.
Back in January, MD of Kochi Metro Rail Limited (KMRL) Elias George had lauded the role played by then District Collector P.I. Sheikh Pareeth in acquiring 31 of the 40 hectares of land needed for metro’s via duct. March 31 was fixed as the extended deadline to acquire the rest of the land.
“The deadline is unlikely to be met because of the State Government’s delay in framing rules based on Centre’s new Land Acquisition Act. Though procedures are similar to the older Act, the new legislation has stipulated higher compensation. Many land owners are waiting for formulation of rules prior to surrendering their land,” said a senior Kochi Metro official.
A committee of government secretaries that was entrusted with framing rules for the State is yet to complete the task. Moreover, a high-level committee on land acquisition headed by the Chief Secretary has not met anytime recently. All this has hampered land acquisition for the project. The process has further been affected because of change of guard at the helm of district administration and also because many revenue officials in charge of land acquisition are deputed for poll duty.
Currently, KMRL and the Revenue Department prefer negotiated purchase of land. “If that fails, we may choose to invoke provisions of Metro Act which is valid for a year more. We also have to see whether the new Central Act exempts land acquisition for metro.” A Revenue official associated with Metro’s land acquisition said that survey of properties that had to be acquired for metro was overdue. This is because the metro alignment is yet to be finalised at a few places where stations are expected to come up.
As for delay in taking over land in Vyttila-Pettah Road, PWD is yet to assess the value of buildings that have to be demolished. “To overcome the delay, we have requested State government to entrust the work to KITCO.”