Don't give false hopes of stopping double-tracking

| NOVEMBER 19, 2020, 11:29 PM IST

Is the Goa government buying time for the Railways, or is it serious about telling the Centre to reconsider the double-tracking project in Goa? The assurances of chief minister Pramod Sawant appear baffling against the backdrop of the Railways going about works at full steam. It was a picture of sharp contrast on Wednesday. There were hope and trust on one side, and there were resentment and anger on the other.

In Panaji, a visiting delegation of six panchayats from Nuvem constituency led by local MLA Wilfred D'Sa got an assurance from the Chief Minister that the State government will ease off coal handling and keep double-tracking works on hold. The CM assured the visitors that he would raise the concerns of the people with Union Minister for Ports and Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya, and Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal in subsequent meetings. The body language of the visiting villagers showed that they were not entirely convinced, even as they saw a ray of hope,

On the flip side, at Davorlim, there was action in broad daylight. Police confronted locals and activists who were asking railways for documentation on land acquisition and NOCs for the work undertaken on track-doubling. The strong posse of police manning the works intimidated people and used foul language to shoo them off. The arrogance of the men in uniform was showing as they insisted that the people leave the site or face the consequences. People were threatened with Section 353 of the IPC; they were warned of jail and their cellphones confiscated. The highhandedness of the police force was clear as daylight. That's not all. Railway Protection force from Bihar was roped in to provide a security cover while Railways went about the job of the demolition of structures and laying of tracks. It sends out a clear message that the government is in no position to stall works on double-tracking.

The question here is why this double-dealing? On what basis has the CM assured the visiting delegation that double-tracking will be kept on hold when he is yet to discuss the issues with the Central ministers. If we are to go by the confidence of the CM on stopping works and live by 'trust' in his words, just like the Nuvem constituents, may we ask, why are works not stopped yet?

Against the backdrop of works undertaken in such a tearing hurry, the chief minister's assurance of stalling double-tracking is deceitful. It appears that the government is buying time for completion of railway works and only trying to douse the flames of protest momentarily. If the works cannot stop, how can the government commit to the capping of coal handling at MPT? If the government cannot exercise its powers within its own territory, how is it going to modify the Sagarmala Project document, which has a national perspective?

Such duplicity will not help the government. The chief minister must start confidence-building measures with concrete steps. Giving vague assurance will widen distrust and boomerang in the days to come.

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