Opposition wants Achuthanandan’s son probed in Smart City deal

October 7th, 2008 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 7 (IANS) Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan’s statement that the Rs.15-billion Smart City project will not come under the new special economic zone (SEZ) guidelines has hit a fresh controversy — with the opposition accusing his son of being involved in the decision and demanding an independent probe.Achuthanandan told reporters here Tuesday after the weekly cabinet meeting that the agreement signed with Smart City Dubai will be the guiding policy document for the project, and not the latest SEZ guidelines.

“The Smart City Kochi project is based on the agreement between the Dubai team and the Kerala government, and this is a state government project,” Achuthanandan said.

The government last week cleared 10 SEZ applications subject to 13 conditions.

The conditions include: no agricultural land will be acquired for SEZ; land will not be acquired for sanctioning SEZ in the private sector; no rebates will be allowed for electricity; Panchayati Raj rules will be applicable; tax holidays will be there only for 10 years; 70 percent of the land will have to be used for industrial purpose and the balance 30 percent for residential apartments; and no apartments can be sold to outside parties.

All labour laws prevailing in the state will also be applicable to these SEZs.

The opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), led by the Congress party, attacked the state government for keeping the Smart City deal out of the SEZ guidelines.

Earlier, Congress spokesperson M.M. Hassan had levelled allegations about the role played by Achuthanandan’s son Arun Kumar in signing the deal with Smart City Dubai.

The UDF liaison committee took up this issue for discussion Tuesday in its meeting.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, UDF convenor P.P. Thankachen said: “Achuthanandan’s statement that Smart City will not come under new guidelines raises doubts about the whole deal, and the involvement of his son has to be probed.”

“How can the state government have two different set of rules for SEZs. We demand that a probe be launched to find out the role played by Achuthanandan’s son,” Thankachen added.

The Smart City project would have 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent would be for IT and IT enabled services, and would employ 90,000 professionals.

Meanwhile, with the UDF levelling allegations, the forthcoming meeting of the Smart City director board Oct 13 is significant.

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