Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s statement that the State government is responsible for the inordinate delay in the implementation of the proposed SmartCity Kochi project has attracted severe rebuke from various quarters.

During the inaugural address at a workshop to fine tune the master plan here on Thursday, Mr. Chandy put the responsibility for the stalemate over the project between 2005 and 2011 on the State government.

The project conceived in 2005, was to be completed in 10 years generating about 90,000 jobs and attracting investments worth $350 million. Not a single building has come up so far, more than five years after the foundation stone was laid with much fan fare in November 2007. The project had hit one roadblock after another since its inception.

Finance minister in the previous Left Democratic Front government T.M. Thomas Isaac felt that Mr Chandy’s statement regarding the delay was completely misleading and wrong.

“It was a well known fact that Tecom, and for that matter the entire Dubai state, was facing a serious financial crisis during the global recession of 2008. The promoters deliberately chose to go slow on the project due to the severe resource crunch coupled with the bleak global economic environment,” he said.

For the Chief Minister to unnecessarily take up the onus for the delay only serves to send across wrong signals to the prospective investors in the State, Mr. Isaac told The Hindu.

Joseph C. Mathew, IT advisor to the former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, regarded the statement absurd and a big joke while accusing the government of dancing to the tune of the Dubai-based promoters.

“Of course, there is no denying the fact that the bureaucrats put a spanner in the progress of the project initially. But what Tecom did since 2008 after the government fulfilled its part of the bargain is criminal negligence,” he said. What prevented the promoters from going ahead with the construction on 130-odd acres which was notified as Special Economic Zone initially? Why they are asking for another six months to launch the construction now when they have a single SEZ as demanded. They are constantly falling back on the excuse of master plan which has become some kind of an enigma.

The promoters could have conceived the master plan as a single SEZ and easily appended the remaining land to it later when the single SEZ was declared, Mr. Mathew said. Even the responsibility for the rejection of application for environment clearance rests with the promoters, as that would not have happened had they furnished correct details.

“Now they are planning to construct a single bridge connecting the two plots separated by the water body while the topography of the site demands two bridges. I have an intuition that the project is going to get further delayed, as the promoters would now demand duty exemption for the construction of bridges, which they are not allowed under the SEZ norms,” Mr. Mathew said.

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