Updated: June 14, 2022 7:51:23 am
On a day when allegations continued to resonate that Colombo had pushed through an Adani Group proposal for a wind energy farm in the north-west of the country at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Sri Lankan cabinet green lighted two long pending connectivity proposals — flights from Jaffna to Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, and a ferry service from Kankesanthurai in Jaffna to Karaikal in Puducherry.
The connectivity projects have been part of India’s wishlist for long, to build more people to people linkages between the two countries in a way that will also contribute to economic activity in Sri Lanka’s Tamil north, the main theatre of the long civil war from which the area’s recovery has been slow. For Sri Lanka, tourist traffic from south India could contribute valuable foreign exchange to its beleaguered economy.
The idea of reviving transport links between Tamil Nadu and northern Sri Lanka — there used to be flights and a ferry service until 1970s — was mooted after the war ended in 2009, but the response from Colombo was tepid. It was in November 2019 that Palaly airport, which was earlier a military airfield, opened for international civilian flights for the first time with thrice weekly Jaffna-Chennai ATR flights operated by Alliance Air. However, the airport shut down in months amid pandemic.
Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda, who is also a Jaffna district parliamentarian, said the two new connections, would bring a considerable number of pilgrims from south India for temple tourism in northern Sri Lanka.
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“The proposals have got cabinet approval. For the ferry, the minister concerned will study the proposal and put it up to the President. It should begin by next month,” Devananda told The Indian Express.
The flights would start once the airport is refurbished, and immigration and customs posts are revived at the airport, he said. Although there is a proposal for a Mannar-Rameswaram ferry service, for now the cabinet has only approved the Kankesanthurai-Karaikal ferry service.
While Rameswaran does not have adequate infrastructure for a ferry service, Karaikal has a big cargo port. However, Marg Ltd, the private promoter of Karaikal port, recently filed for insolvency proceedings after defaulting on a Rs 2,400 crore repayment to a lender.
Last November, Edelweiss sold its debt of Rs 2,059 crore along with 11 per cent equity it held in Karaikal Port to Omkara ARC.
The two persons nominated by Omkara to the Karaikal Board are Ameet Desai, former Executive Director and CFO of Adani group, and Surender Kumar Tuteja, a retired Punjab cadre IAS officer, and an ex-director in the Adani Agri Logisitcs Limited. Their nomination has been reported as paving the way for Karaikal Port to be acquired by Adani Ports & Special Economic Zones.
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