A political storm is gathering strength in the Kochi Corporation with stage set for a Vigilance probe into the construction of the solid waste treatment plant at Brahmapuram.

The Vigilance court order comes at a time when the Congress-led civic administration, which replaced the LDF regime two years ago, is facing a Vigilance probe on allegations of corruption regarding the auctioning of rights to display advertisement boards on lamp posts.

An activist of the All India Youth Federation had approached the court seeking probe against Kochi Mayor Tony Chammany, Town Planning Standing Committee chairman K.J. Sohan and a few officials of the civic body. The LDF had also unleashed a series of agitations both inside and outside the Corporation Council demanding the resignation of the civic administrators. A few council meetings were also disrupted following the protests.

The latest developments come as a shot in the arm for the civic administration.

It was during the LDF regime headed by Mercy Williams that the local body embarked on the construction of the solid waste treatment plant. The local body had also made use of the funds released by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) for the project.

The corporation had entrusted the work to Andhra Pradesh Technology Development Council (ATDPC) for Rs.19.63 crore. The agency was expected to construct and run the plant for one year. However, it developed serious technical snags before the term, upsetting waste treatment measures in the city. Subsequently, the plant site became a dumping yard for municipal waste.

Later, the Kochi Corporation roped in a private agency for repairing and running the plant. Now, the State government is in the process of setting up a modern plant there.

Meanwhile, the LDF leadership in the council said the move was politically motivated.

K.N. Sunilkumar, CPI (M) parliamentary party leader in the council, said the FACT Engineering and Design Organisation (FEDO) was responsible for the installation of the plant. The civic body had appointed FEDO, a public sector company, as its consultant for the project. They were also assigned the task of supervising its implementation. Only bills approved by FEDO were passed by the local body, said Mr. Sunilkumar who was there in the previous council too.

Mr. Sunilkumar said the LDF was not afraid of an inquiry into the deal as its hands were clean. FEDO, the central government agency, should be held responsible for the failure of the plant.

Moreover, the corporation had withheld some of payments to the APTDC as the plant developed technical snags. A case was pending in a Hyderabad court, he said.

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