Kerala and Some High Speed Jokes

The best joke of the year so far just came out of the blue one fine morning, splashed across the front page of the day's newspaper. Seeing the headline, I couldn't hold it in (the laughter) and just ROLFMAO-ed my guts out! Well, the headline and the joke was thus: "Kerala plans to implement high-speed railway!" and "People will be able travel from Trivandrum to Kannur in 1 and a half hours flat!!" Bwaaaaahahahahahahahaaaa Can you believe this sh*t? Hahahaha did they actually mean to print this comedy on the first page of real newspapers?? Or is it that our netas and editors have really good humor sense?

Haha. Hi-Tech, High-Speed Railway. Right. In Kerala. Sure. As a person who has lived 31 years seeing and knowing what Kerala is, I just cannot look at this announcement as anything other than a joke, while being slightly perplexed that someone even had the audacity to make such an outright atrocious pronouncement at the same time. The land of thousand strikes has a long history of concerted efforts made to make sure that certain things never happen, like industrialization, infrastructure projects and free mingling of guys and girls. Now, if someone thinks there is any water in this announcement, I can only smirk.

Anyway, let us look at what could happen in the days to come, with regard to this project.

The mess that the High Speed Rail project is going to create in Kerala

  • Atleast 150 harthals/bandhs/strikes in 10 years
  • Countless marches/dharnas/sit-ins/sieges/protests
  • Lathicharges/firing in the air and at angles/144s as the result of the above
  • Some 20 "High-Speed Rail Action Councils" spread from Trivandrum to Kannur
  • Strike cacophonies by everyone from MLAs, MPs, aspiring leaders, civil rights groups to ward members petitoning to allow stops for the high speed train at stations in their areas.

"High-Speed Rail will destroy Kerala! Murdabad!" cries.

  • The High-Speed Rail is a conspiracy to allow all the rich imperialist bourgeis corporate muthalalis to exploit the downtrodden and the proletariat at high speeds from North to South
  • You cannot cross the High Speed Rail lines. Hence it will cut Kerala into two like a Karela!
  • Tens of thousands of people will lose their land, houses etc, especially poor people will lose their lands forever
  • The High Speed Rail is a failure in China and moreover, you cannot extend it to the Gulf.

Some of the demands that may crop up around the High Speed Rail.

  • The High Speed train should compulsorily stop at Chirayinkeezhu, Varkala, Karunagapally, Vaikom, Angamali, Pattambi etc
  • There should be reservations for socially and economically backward classes with regard to seats and 50% discount on ticket charges.
  • A socialist government is bound to provide transportation for the masses. Hence tickets and fares should be done away with, like toll charges. This is how it is in Cuba and all
  • Since Kerala is a highly densily populated state, there should be special considerations for building the line. Like 30 meter wide "Highways", it is enough that the High Speed rail line to have only one rail instead of two.

Don't misunderstand me as being anti-development. I really am all for it, but it is my cynicism that made me write all this, as a person who has seen projects like this being launched and then buried over the years in Kerala. Every once in a while some politician or bureaucrat or activist group or someone else comes forward with an announcement of this kind. The common guy widens his eyes with hope and happiness that his land is also on the path of development, and that one day he can see gleaming infrastructure with his own eyes. But as time goes on, that hope gets crushed by heavy disappointment. There are a lot of people who stand to lose a lot if this land develops and the people get emancipated and start working for their own upliftment. That should not be allowed to happen at any cost. Those at the top, the rich and powerful upper strata of the society, seeing these projects a threat to their own vested and greedy interests, come forward with hollow arguments and ridiculous excuses to stop these projects at any cost. Finally, what started off with great promise will be strangled to death most of the time in the womb itself with money, power, influence and organization. The cheated man curses under his his breath and offers pravers at the grave of the project, swallowing his silent anger at being made a joker once again.

Look at the projects that have suffered this fate over the years. The Highrange Highway, Coastal Highway, Normal Highways where they wanted the highways to be 30 m wide, a number of Expressways, the Ernakulam - Kottayam/Alappuzha - Kayamkulam rail line doubling and the Punalur - Chenkotta gauge conversion, the Sabari Rail, Erumeli Rail, Tirur - Guruvayur, Thalasseri - Mysore, Nilambur - Nanjangode and Trivandrum - Kottarakkara - Chengannur railway lines. Add to this the Vallarpadam and Vizhinjam projects, countless IT parks, Smart Cities and industrial areas, the "Railway Zone" joke and of course, the wheezing KSRTC. Most of these are already dead and the remaining are on life support. The only projects that seem to get any headway are the creation of new International Airports, because even the powerful want to fly and get out of the country as soon as possible.

The great Ernakulam - Kottayam - Kayankulam railway line doubling thamasha has been going on for 10 years now and an incredibly mind blowing 25 km has been completed so far! If it goes like this, the thing will be completed by 2055. 40 trains run up and down daily on this single line, unparalleled anywhere else in India. And the Railways now refuse to run any more trains on this overburdened line, which coupled with TVC's capacity choke has effectively put an end to Kerala's railway aspirations. Apart from this, the Ernakulam - Shornur needs to have 2 more rail lines urgently. The doubling/electrification between Shornur and Mangalore has been going on since forever and The Kollam - Chenkotta gauge change project has been dead for a long time. And then the Palakkad Rail Coach factory which hasn't even produced a window bar till now. So in total, Kerala continues ignored and tortured while still begging for breadcrumbs which our railway overlords at Southern Railway, Chennai throw down once in a while. Kerala's railway aspirations will not take off unless a separate railway zone is allotted. I think that is the exact reason why a zone is not allotted.

Now, as some dreams do come true, imagine that this entire project does come true. It will largely remain a tourist attraction like the Bangalore Metro. The Bangalore Metro is just in it's infancy and will be hugely beneficial once it is completed, though. But here, in a densely populated state, where even the Rajdhani has four stops within 120 kilometers and ultra long distance trains stop at small-town stations every 10 minutes, a point - to - point high speed train that does not stop anywhere makes exactly zero sense, and much less if someone says it can have stops at important stations. To prove the point, let us look athe distances between the "importantest" stations on the route. Thiruvananthapuram - Kollam: 70 km, Kollam - Kottayam: 90 km, Kottayam - Ernakulam: 60 km, Ernakulam - Thrissur: 60 km, Thrissur - Shornur: 30 km, Shornur - Tirur: 50 km, Tirur - Kozhikode: 50 km, Kozhikode - Kannur: 100 km. That is 7 stops on the way, one stop every 70 km or so! What high speed will the train achieve in this case? The train will never touch speeds at more than 150 kph, which our present day trains are capable of with the right rails on the ground. These people are unable to run one more daily train from Bangalore where a million Malayalees live, using existing infrastructure.

Indians in general and Malayalees have this in-grown habit of forgetting the basics and aiming directly at the top, often making over-the-top prouncements (popularly called "gas") that touch neither here nor there and are as realistic as an Akshay Kumar film. This is the latest example of that. Let these people learn to run the existing "Low Tech" trains properly at first, and then think of flying to the moon. Or maybe all this is just to pour paint in the eyes of the people to cover up the shabby inability they have to do anything right.

High-Speed Railway corridor, right. Indeed. Hahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ROFL

(This post is available in Malayalam also. ഈ ലേഖനം മലയാളത്തിലും ലഭ്യമാണ്)

Also Read: Kerala, the Joker in the Railways' Pack of Cards

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  • Anonymous

    Why cynical? Now take this… The new rail line will be routed under the Sea from Kannur to Trivandrum :-)

  • Abhishek G

    Commenting here as I definitely need more than 140 Charecters! Thru all this I see the optamist & yearning to see this in reality and most importantly, within our lifespan. :)
    Data of scuttled projects are a story in itself.
    Keeping long range view of things, I feel ‘pockets are excellence’ is what we are capable of in a regular basis e.g. IT Hubs in Bangalore, Hyderabad etc., or Cars manufacturing in Chennai/TN and so on.
    Hopefully, media, politicians & other public machinary create a +ve spin to things (no a rich-poor thing) but the goodness to the region in perspective.

    • Hope. Hope springs eternal! They have to do something. I hope to God that they do…

  • @jean_blore

    For me the question is, what would we do if we reach Kannur in 1.5hrs? We’re a slow group of people, taking our own ‘sweet’ time to do everything. If we want to go to Kannur (from TVM) we expect it to take a whole day, and we’ll be back in a couple of days. Oh, we delight in the tiresomeness of the travel. We would talk about nothing else for weeks. 
    How can we adjust to this 1.5hr thing on the ground? (Planes are a different story of course. They were always fast.) We don’t plan to go to Kannur, get some job done and return in the evening. It so isn’t Malayali.
    The best superfast expresses we could tolerate take us from TVM to Kollam in 1.5 hrs. Now, *that* is fast. 
    I don’t think we would ever adjust our mindset to any faster expresses than that.

  • Andrewsmith2008

    high speed means lots thing progrees. travel to job from 200km ever day , luxury of reaching home for students from professional colleges,  post will be faster. 

    1.5 hour to Kannur is not a big thing.  but it will come at a price may be 3000-5000 Rs as ticket charge.

    Beware in western countries high speed train charge is 3-4 times more than flight charge!

    • Yes, I agree. But hopefully it should happen! Maybe not that high… :)

    • Arul – Tamil Nadu

      Its wrong. The trains are cheaper and time saving in western countries for about 300 to 500 km range. For example Frankfurt to Koln takes one hour for about 200 kms even with two stops. In france, TGV trains travel at speeds more than 300 kms per hour. Always cheaper than flight. Frankfurt to Koln train fair is 34 euro which is much cheaper than flying.

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  • Fly2dileep

    People like you are the real mess.

  • Mohankrishnan

    There is lot of opposition to this project citing N number of reasons why it shouln’nt be. It is a fact that land is scarce in thickly populated Kerala. We have seen protests against Express Way that was shelved and 45 meter wide 4 laning of NH , LNG pipeline etc are facing stiff opposition. Probably the Hi-Speed line may be routed above the existing railway line from Mangalore to Trivandrum via Kottayam. Except for straightening sharp curves in the existing path, land acquisition can be kept to minimum. This will also save time, money & effort for commuters switching from Hi-Speed to low speed Locals/ MEMUs to go to an intermediate town. In the present alignment; conventional train stations and hi-speed stations could be kilometers apart in a city necessitating taking an alternate high-carbon transport. See for instance for a passenger alighting at Hazrat Nizamudin there is no Metro Station conveniently located nearby to NZM to go to Delhi Jn to catch a connecting train further north or east. Why did’nt DMRC think of this gap ??!! (Probably DMRC may think of a monorail linking ISBT Sarai Kale Khan to ISBT Kahmiri Gate via NZM, NDLS & DLI railway stations to address this lack of suitable low carbon transit issue)

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  • bmniac

    Interesting. You have given most of the reasons why development gets stymied in Kerala. A proposal to introduce computers in Government was killed by the cabinet in Kerala in 1971, When Computers were introduced in a Government department after getting all the approvals the explanation of the Secretary to the Department was called for by the CM Mr Nayanar. And this is just one example. And you expect progress?

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