With the work on the SmartCity Kochi project getting under way on Saturday, the State government, along with its partner Tecom, the Dubai-based promoters of the project, is all set to hit the campaign mode to attract investments to what is regarded as one of the flagship projects of the State.

“SmartCity Kochi will be one of the most important projects that will be highlighted at the Emerging Kerala Investors' Meet (which is scheduled for April next year) and we will draw up specific projects towards that end,” Additional Chief Secretary in charge of Information Technology T. Balakrishnan told The Hindu.

Road shows to attract investments are set to kick off, most probably from Bangalore, in December with the completion of the concept master plan, Baju George, managing director of SmartCity (India), told reporters.

He said that with the Telangana issue taking its toll on Hyderabad as an IT destination and the infrastructure congestion felt in Tamil Nadu, a window of opportunity had opened before Kerala to attract IT investments.

Mr. George said that investment campaigns within the country were as important as those abroad.

He said that 90,000 jobs, which the promoters are legally bound to offer, will be created by the time 88 lakh sq.ft is readied. During the first phase 3,500-4,000 jobs will be created. Out of the 88 lakh sq.ft., 70 per cent will be dedicated to IT while the rest of the non-processing zone will be used for creating supporting social infrastructure.

Mr. George said that studies revealed that lack of social infrastructure was what held back the IT potential of the State. “It is vital to attract and retain employees. When an employee joins a company, he will not be looking only at the company ambience, but the education and health care facilities for his family,” he said.

Besides, the pending issue with GAIL (India) Limited over laying underground pipelines through the project site could have serious ramifications for the project if left unresolved, he said. If prominent companies perceive the underground pipelines as a security threat and decline to come to SmartCity, the very purpose of the project would be undermined. Mr. George said that continuous discussions would be held with GAIL for the resolution of the issue.

Protest

The launch of the work on the pavilion of SmartCity Kochi on Saturday was not without its share of hiccups as local Congress party activists engaged in slogan shouting and protested against the perceived slight meted out to V.P. Sajeendran, MLA, and K.P. Dhanapalan, MP.

The workers were mollified when the leaders were given seats on the dais. Later, addressing the gathering, Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty said that no formal function was originally planned and asked the workers to forgive the inability of organisers to conform to protocol at the function organised in haste.

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