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MoU for Smart City signed

Staff Reporter

We have an open mind on the project, says Oommen Chandy

HERALDING A PACT: Ahmad bin Byat, director-general of TECOM, and Chief Secretary Palat Mohandas exchanging documents at the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the Smart City project in Kochi on Friday. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Ind ustries Minister V.K. Ebrahim Kunju are seen. — Photo: Vipinchandran

KOCHI: The Government of Kerala and the Dubai-based TECOM (Technology, Electronic Commerce And Media Free Zone), promoters of the Dubai Internet City (DIC), signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) here on Friday for setting up a Smart City on 300 acres of land on the outskirts of Kochi.

Chief Secretary Palat Mohandas and director-general of TECOM Ahmad bin Byat signed the documents in the presence of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Industries Minister V. K. Ebrahim Kunju and officials from the DIC and the State Government even as the police had cordoned off Hotel Taj Malabar on Willingdon Island where the agreement was signed.

About two hours before the agreement was signed, a group of activists of the Solidarity Youth Movement who took a protest march to the hotel were arrested and removed by the police.

The memorandum provides a broad framework for an agreement between the Government and TECOM, expected to be signed within six weeks, said Mr. Ahmad bin Byat.

He said he was absolutely satisfied with the terms of the memorandum and looked forward to signing the agreement much ahead of the 90-day deadline. He ruled out any possibility of the project being derailed under changed political circumstances in the future. He also said the DIC had not talked to any political leaders from the State other than those in the Government.

The identity of InfoPark would be kept intact. There would be no re-branding, he said. The development of the Smart City would be in keeping with the requirements of the clients, some of whom had already evinced interest in the project.

He said that TECOM would be interested in diversifying into areas such as the hospitality industry in the long run considering the potential for the growth of Kochi.

He said TECOM was looking forward to getting 300 acres of land immediately for the project. A master plan for the development of the infrastructure would be ready within two months and work on the project could start soon after, said Deepak Padmanabhan of the DIC.

The Chief Minister told reporters that the Government still had an open mind on the project and that discussions with those who opposed the project were on. A copy of the MoU was made available to Opposition Leader V. S. Achuthanandan as soon as it was ready.

Mr. Chandy said the Government was giving 100 acres of land for the project in lieu of 33,300 jobs that would be created by the DIC in 10 years. The land was estimated to cost Rs.20 crores. InfoPark and 62.5 acres of land on which the property is housed is being handed over to the DIC for a consideration of Rs.109 crores.

Another 136 acres of land would be acquired by the Government and handed over to the DIC for Rs.36 crores.

Kerala logged a meagre Rs.316-crore IT business last year whereas Karnataka did business worth Rs.27,000 crores and Tamil Nadu worth Rs. 12,000 crores.

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