A Railway Line to connect Wayanad, Kerala with Mysore: Many a Solutions

By T.M. Rasheed, Advocate, Joint Convenor of Mysore-Wayanad Railway Action Council

In 930 AD, emperor Erayappa of Ganga Dynasty led his troops to south west of Mysore – an invasion to the prosperous kingdom he had heard of from traders and Jain monks. Mission accomplished and he called the conquered kingdom ‘Bayalnad’ meaning the land of swamps. After Erayappa, his sons Rachamalla and Battunga fought each other for the new kingdom of their father’s legacy. Rachamalla was killed and Battunga became the undisputed ruler of Bayalnad.

In 12th century AD, Gangas were dethroned from Bayalnad by Kadamba dynasty of North Canara. In 1104 AD Vishnuvardhana of Hoysala invaded Bayalnad followed by Vijayanagara dynasty in 16th century. In 1610 AD Udaiyar Raja Wadiyar of Mysore drove out Vijayanagara General and became the ruler of Bayalnad and the Nilgiris. Bayalnad is the present Wayanad.

When Wayanad was under Tipu Sultan’s rule, the British invasion started. Tussle and turbulent times followed. The British claimed Wayanad under 1792 treaty of Srirangapatna citing it was part of Malabar. Tipu Sultan went in appeal before the Governor General. Considering his arguments, relying on the successive Karnatic rule for centuries in Wayanad and its geographical detachment from Malabar, in 1798, Governor General Lord Mornington declared by proclamation that Wayanad had not been ceded to the East India Company by the treaty of 1792.

Consequently the British troops withdrew from Wayanad conceding to Tipu’s rule. In 1799, after the fall of Sultan, the British handed over Wayanad by treaty of 1799 to the Raja of Mysore. But by a supplementary treaty dated 29th December 1803 the East India Company repossessed Wayanad and thereafter administrated by Col. Arthur Wellesley from Srirangapatna. Any how Wayanad eventually became part of Kerala despite its geographical delimitations and political descent in 1956 on State’s reorganisation. Even now there is a considerable Kannada speaking population and the reminiscence of centuries old Karnatic rule is omnipresent in Wayanad.

A rail line to connect Wayanad with Mysore was first proposed in Mysore People’s Council in 1880. The Mysore administration report of 1891-93 proves that a survey was conducted for this line in 1892. Even though surveys were conducted in 1906 and during 1916-17 also by the Mysore government for a rail line to connect Mysore to Kerala (Malabar) through Wayanad, the same could not be materialised. During 1921, the Railway Board deputed Chief Engineer Sir John Izzat to prepare a report on new railway lines required in south India and its order of urgency. He recommended 26 new lines of which 12th priority was Nanjangud-Wayanad-Nilambur-Shornoor line. Based on this report, in 1924, the Railway authorities conducted a detailed survey named as ‘Mysore-Wayanad Project’ as per gazette of India notification No. 823P dated 29-8-1923. Even though the Shornoor-Nilambur portion of rail line was completed in 1927 itself and 25 other lines were materialised, still the Nilambur-Nanjangud portion is yet to be linked.

Fortunately, now the political and commercial leadership of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are realising this missing link. Not only would this connect the three States but also help in the development of a large region comprising of Mysore, Chamarajanagar, Kodagu, Wayanad, Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram and the Nilgiris districts in the three States and would accelerate trade, commerce and agriculture in this area having a population of more than 2 crores. This line would provide a face lift to the city of Mysore and provide a direct connectivity to Kerala within 1 hour and to the port city Kochi in 6 hours. This line would be the shortest route to Bangalore and North India from Kerala so that all the trains plying to Kerala from Bangalore and beyond would be rerouted through Mysore.

The NRI rich Kerala is the single largest consumer market in India. But thanks to the State’s peculiar political climate, no new industries are possible there. Those who want to invest at present are left with no option but to cumulate their deposit in banks. A railway line would provide them with an option to invest in the nearby yet investment friendly Mysore. More investment in industries means more employment opportunities and growth. Mysore is the favourite tourism destination of Kerala and a direct line would further promote the tourism and allied industry. The farmers of Chamarajanagar and Mysore would be the foremost beneficiaries of this railway line which provides cheap and fast connectivity to Kerala markets. The health care and educational institutions in Mysore will be rejuvenated by extending their reach to the people of Wayanad and Nilgiris.

A new railway zone for south India is under active consideration for a long time. If Kerala is linked directly from Mysore by incorporating Mysore, Palakkad, Thiruvananthapuram divisions and Manglore area as a new railway zone with Mysore as its headquarters could be created which would help the future railway developments of this area in a big way.

Presently, Kerala is suffering from acute manual labour shortage. More than 25 lakh employees from other States are working in Kerala’s unorganised sector and are getting better wages. A large number of casual labourers from Chamarajanagar and Mysore districts are working in Wayanad. This line would provide better employment opportunities for the marginalised people in Karnataka.

Wayanad and Nilgiri districts have considerable NRI population. But their nearest airport is 4 hours away, at Calicut. Since this line would connect Wayanad with Mysore in one hour, connection to gulf flights from Trivandrum, Cochin and Calicut are feasible from Mysore airports. Wayanad and The Nilgiris districts have no large cities. So Mysore will become their favourite trade and commerce destination through the rail connectivity.

Environmental apprehensions

The hue and cry by environmental activists against this railway line alleging that this line may prove fatal to wildlife is baseless. At present, four Highways including two NH’s are leading from Wayanad and Nilgiris to Mysore crossing the contiguous Bandipur, Nagarhole, Mudumalai National Parks and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. All together, these Highways are crossing 136 kms in forests. Since the movement of vehicles in banned on these Highways in the night as per the orders from Karnataka High Court, as a consequence, the day time traffic is increasing. Since NH 212 and 67 are important National Highways connecting 3 states, ban on vehicular movement in the night has affected heavily on tourism, trade and commerce and also inconveniencing the commuters.

Railways are the most environmental friendly conveyance in the world. Studies show that when one train passes, 400 motor vehicles would be kept away from the roads. The proposed railway line is centrally located to above mentioned Highways. So thousands of motor vehicles presently plying on these roads daily could be eliminated by constructing this railway line. This will lead to reduction in emission and pollution and also the gain of considerable carbon credit.

The proposed railway line is to pass just 10 kms through the Bandipur National Park. The Railways proposes to draw the line through over bridges in this area, so that the line would not cause any wildlife casualty. The animals would soon get accustomed with the passing of trains. Even wild animals have some sense to avoid dangers from vehicles.

The records available with Bandipur National Park authorities prove that during the last 12 years only 14 animals were killed by vehicle accidents on NH 212, whereas, 56 animals were killed by hunters and poachers during that period.

The Nanjangud-Nilambur railway line, would reduce vehicle traffic and human intervention in forest area and is the best method to conserve the Bandipur National Park and the adjacent forests.

Ro-Ro services also can be introduced in this line and the trucks passing through all four Highways in these forests shall compulsorily be carried through Ro-Ro. A tunnel in a forest stretch can also be considered.

When solutions are there it is not fair to languish anger against this railway line by a fundamental environmental approach which will be against the long cherished aspiration of the people of three States. The people living around forests are loving and protecting the forests than those who are preaching it through media. Based on bogus allegations and denying basic amenities under the guises of wildlife protection and sabotaging these projects will invite anger from people against forests and wildlife which may in turn effect even the existence of forests adversely.

This railway line helping development of a vast area, connecting three States and promoting national integration, bringing the tribal dominated backward districts into mainstream, promoting trade, commerce, tourism and agriculture, connecting Mysore with a major port and container terminal, bringing back old ties of Wayanad and Nilgiris with Mysore, brightening prospects for a railway zone in Mysore, providing large scale employment opportunities and also help in environmental protection is the need of the hour which history compels and the future demands. So let us unite cutting across State barriers and languages for materialising the long pending Nanjangud-Sulthan Bathery-Nilambur railway line.

[The writer may be contacted on Mob: 094474-32562 or email: tmrasheed @hotmail.com]