One year later, Kochi project stands on foundation stone

November 16th, 2008 - 5:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Kochi, Nov 16 (IANS) Exactly a year ago this day, the foundation stone for the much hyped information technology (IT)-related Smart City Kochi project was laid here amid fanfare by Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan. Since then - barring four board meetings, nothing has progressed.

The Rs.15-billion Smart City project is 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. The project aims to create 90,000 jobs.

Smart City Kochi is a joint venture company promoted by Dubai Holding members TECOM Investments and Sama Dubai, along with the Kerala government.

Dubai Holding belongs to the Dubai government, and controls a slew of companies that operate in the real estate, hospitality, finance, healthcare, energy, research, education, entertainment, media, Internet, tourism and biotechnology sectors.

The project was conceived by the then Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who shelved it in 2004 following stiff opposition from Achuthanandan, the then leader of the opposition, and his Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

Achuthanandan had alleged the deal would help Dubai more than Kerala, forcing Chandy to backtrack, who had his eye on the assembly election round the corner.

Interestingly, if the Smart City as envisaged by Chandy became an election issue for Achuthanandan in the 2006 assembly polls, the same issue could go against him in the next Lok Sabha polls here.

This, because Achuthanandan went ahead with the project, and gave Chandy the opportunity to ask for a probe on the ground that the current government had a “secret agenda” and had given special concessions to the project.

The agreement for the project was inked in May last year and the foundation laid Nov 16, 2007, with the understanding that the master plan would be ready in a year and construction beginning thereafter.

But the master plan is yet to be ready and the Dubai investors have now demanded that the entire 246 acres be designated a special economic zone (SEZ). So far, 136 acres have been sanctioned as a SEZ.

Achuthanandan is playing down the controversy ahead of the next director board meeting next month.

“Things are on the right direction and there are no problems at all,” he told reporters here Sunday when quizzed about the project’s slow progress.

A team from Dubai will arrive here shortly, and one of the issues expected to be discussed pertains to concessions on stamp duty and land registration that the government can give.

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