Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 24 (IANS) The first day of the winter session of the Kerala Assembly Monday saw Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and leader of opposition Oommen Chandy crossing swords over the Rs.15 billion 'Smart City' project coming up in Kochi.
Chandy was irked when Achuthanandan, replying to a question on the project, said the agreement that his government had inked with the Dubai-based builders of the project was much better than the one that Chandy had considered.
'We have not given away the Infopark campus as agreed by Chandy. The agreement was that the Infopark campus would be given for free and also it was agreed that once sanction is given for the Smart City, no other IT park with the state government's contribution will be allowed in Kochi,' said Achuthanandan.
At this, Chandy was up on his feet and contradicted the Chief Minister.
'The state finance ministry had estimated the total value of the Infopark campus as Rs.80 million and we agreed to hand it over for Rs.109 million,' he said.
In turn, he asked the Chief Minister to reveal at what price was the 100 acre campus of the State Electricity Board given to Smart City Dubai as well as the 13 acres of land belonging to the Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA).
However, Achuthanandan said Chandy was trying to mislead the people of the state. 'People of Kerala know whose agreement was better and saying all these things now is no use,' he maintained.
Not to be cowed down, Chandy got up again and said that what he has asked was with full responsibility. 'We want an answer to the questions that I have posed,' he said, as the entire opposition thumped their desks in support.
Sensing the situation was going out of control, Achuthanandan said he would reply to the queries in the next few days.
Earlier, responding to a question about the delay in the project, he said so far the Dubai firm had not said any delay was due to the ongoing economic slowdown.
'Issues are being sorted out and it is going ahead in the right manner,' he added.
The foundation stone for the much hyped project was laid on Nov 16, 2007 by Achuthanandan and since then, barring four board meetings, there has been no movement in the project slated to come up on a 246-acre plot, with an 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent is earmarked for IT and IT-enabled services.
All eyes are now on the next board meeting scheduled to be held December first week and the major issues that have to be sorted out are the concessions on stamp duty and land registration that the government can give.
The Smart City project, which aims to create 90,000 jobs, is a joint venture company promoted by Dubai Holding members TECOM Investments and Sama Dubai, along with the Kerala government.
The project was originally conceived by Chandy, the then Chief Minister, but shelved in 2004 following stiff opposition from Achuthanandan, the then leader of the opposition, and his Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
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