Monday, May 25, 2009

Smart City: Kerala minister flays TECOM

25 May 2009
Kochi, May 25: A few days after Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said the global slowdown might delay the launch of Kochi's Smart City project, state Fisheries Minister S. Sarma Monday said the project developer was now making fresh demands that were not part of the agreement.

Smart City Dubai has not even placed a brick at the site, Sarma, also the chairman of the Rs.1,500 crore ($316 million) project, said while speaking at a function here.

"We are bound by the agreement and we will honour it by all means. But instead of going ahead as planned, they (Smart City Dubai) are now coming up with fresh demands," he said.

"Now they want to get free hold rights of 12 percent of total project land, which amounts to 39 acres. As per the agreement, this becomes due only after the master plan is ready. But the plan is yet to be ready," the minister added.

Earlier May 20, Achuthanandan had said the developer might not have the required funds because of the financial crunch. He also accused the Dubai-based firm of making "undeserving demands".

The proposed project, to be jointly launched by the state government and infrastructure major Smart City, is slated to come up on a 246-acre plot with 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent is earmarked for IT and IT-enabled services.

The foundation stone of the project was laid Nov 16, 2007 by Achuthanandan and since then, barring a few board meetings, there has been no movement in the project.

Earlier Smart City Dubai chief executive Fareed Abdulrahman had said the company wanted the land holding issue settled first.

He added that the company had put on hold recruitment of additional human resources until the freehold issue was resolved.

However, Sarma said the demand was "outside the purview of the agreement".

"See, we just can't violate the agreement. If we do so, then it would lead to endless rounds of controversies," he added.

Meanwhile, the state Youth Congress has called for a march towards the project site June 1, calling for the government's speedy action to bring the project into reality.

Youth Congress leader P.S. Prasanth said the protest meet would be inaugurated by Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy.

"The state government instead of blaming others first have to do its job. We just can't afford to lose this project," said Prasanth.

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