By P.T. Bopanna

Kodagu (Coorg) MP Pratap Simha is playing dirty politics by lobbying for the Mysuru-Kushalanagar railway line, thereby betraying the massive mandate given by the people of Kodagu in the Lok Sabha elections.

In a series of reports, this reporter had cautioned the people of Kodagu against the ‘double game’ being played by right wing journalist and Modi biographer-turned politician Simha, of the BJP, who had worked against the interest of Kodagu during his first tenure in the Lok Sabha.  

It is a well-known fact that Simha plays the Modi mantra of hyper nationalism, especially on social media, but indulges in caste politics by engaging in secret deals with the Deve Gowda clan for the JD (S) Vokkaliga votes.

Knowing fully well the ecological damage that would be caused by the Mysuru-Kushalanagar railway line, Simha is backing the project to appease the Vokkaliga voters in the Hunsur-Periyapatna belt of his constituency by promising to develop the area.

It is suspected that Simha has the backing of the Kerala timber and tourism lobby who will be the main beneficiaries. It is on account of these lobbies, Simha has made renewed push for the railway project and the broadening of national highway 275 passing through Kodagu on the eve of the Union budget. It is estimated these projects would involve the felling of over four lakh trees.

What is worrying about the whole exercise is that Simha is pushing for the project for political reasons even after it was declared as economically unviable.

Last December, the Union Minister of State for railways Rajen Gohain had told Parliament that the Mysuru-Kushalanagar-Madikeri line project had been dropped as the line will not fetch any revenue to the railways.

Gohain had told the Lok Sabha in a written reply:  “the survey for Mysuru (Belagola)-Kushalanagar-Madikeri (119.10 km) new line was completed during 2018-19. The total cost of the proposed new line was assessed at Rs. 2,607.53 crore with rate of return of (minus) 5.65 per cent. The survey report has been examined and this proposal could not be taken forward due to un-remunerative nature and no operational and financial justification of the proposed new line.”

Within months of the project being shelved for not being remunerative, on the eve of the Lok Sabha polls, Simha met railway minister Piyush Goyal  and tweeted:  “New Railway Line between Mysuru and Kushalnagar (87 Kms) approved at a cost of Rs 1854 crores.”

This gives room for suspicion that the sanctions have been given by short-circuiting the various procedures to gain electoral advantage. What adds to the suspicion is the fact that even before the railway could formally announce the sanction of the railway line to Kodagu, the announcement was tweeted by Simha!

The project has faced lot of criticism from environmentalists who have expressed concern over the fact that the railway line passes close to the areas devastated by last year’s massive landslides in Kodagu.  

Simha has been misleading the people that the railway line would end at Kushalanagar and would not be extended to Madikeri, even though the railway ministry had cleared the project up to Madikeri.

The president of the Coorg Wildlife Society Col C.P. Muthanna said: “We are a population of only 5 lakh people and Kodagu is well-connected to all major cities in the vicinity by road. We do not require the railroad. The proposed railroad, which has been approved by the government, will require nearly 50,000 trees to be felled from the region.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi should stop the railway project which has been found to be economically unviable by his own government, but being pursued by the Simha-Piyush duo for political reasons. And also on account of the ecological damage that would entail in the fragile Western Ghats, the birthplace of river Cauvery, the lifeline of South India.

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