Kerala finally clears Smart City project (Lead)

February 2nd, 2011 - 11:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Feb 2 (IANS) The deadlock between the Kerala government and Smart City Dubai over the proposed Rs.1,500 crore Smart City Kochi project finally ended Wednesday following talks between Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and United Arab Emirates (UAE) government representative Ahmed Humaid Al Tayer.Speaking to reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting here, Achuthanandan said the project is now through and will go into the implementing phase.

“The lease agreement will be ready in a week for the transfer of the land and the government has decided to exempt the land transfer deal from stamp duty and registration fees. And soon the master plan would be ready and the work also will start,” said Achuthanandan.

Reacting to the opposition’s allegations that it has been delayed for many years and a huge loss has been caused to the state exchequer, the chief minister shot back, “several times they had gone to the project site and laid wreaths and now that this has become a reality, they have to say some excuses.”

Earlier Wednesday, Achuthanandan held talks with the Dubai government team here.

“The project is going to be a reality and the details will be announced soon after the cabinet meeting,” said Achuthanandan.

A nine-point agreement to this effect was signed by the two parties.

It was more than three years back that the foundation stone for the project was laid and since then, work has been held up over the issue of granting 12 percent freehold rights to the builders outside of the 246 acres of the proposed project site.

Sources close to the government say the issue was settled after the government agreed to give 12 percent freehold rights, but within the 246 acres which would come under the special economic zone and cannot be sold.

The talks had broken down last year and Achuthanandan had more than once blamed Smart City Dubai, saying it was intentionally delaying the project as it was broke. He had even described Smart City Kochi’s chief executive officer Fareed Abdulrahman “a drunk.”

But the turnaround came after the state government appointed UAE-based businessman from Kerala, M.A.Yousuf Ali, to negotiate with the UAE government.

“I had eight rounds of talks with the UAE officials and several informal talks with them. It has now become a reality and I am happy that thousands of youths in the state will get jobs once the Smart City Kochi becomes a reality,” said Ali, who attended the meeting.

Speaking to reporters, local Congress legislator K. Babu said that even though he was happy that the differences have been resolved, some questions still remained unanswered.

“The larger question is why this nearly four-year-long delay and who is to be blamed for this? Had the state government been more sincere and had it gone ahead in the same speed after the foundation stone was laid, then by now people would have been working there,” said Babu.

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