It seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for the authorities of the Kerala State Science and Technology Museum (KSSTM) here when the financial markets closed on August 28.
The Indian Rupee touched an all-time low against the euro with the former needing Rs.92 to touch one euro.
The KSSTM was on the verge of giving up the ambitious project to modernise the Priyadarshini Planetarium. It had roped in German agency Carl Zeiss for the work. There is but fresh hope now with plans to reallocate funds taking shape.
Global tenders were called in 2012 and the Carl Zeiss was chosen from among firms in Japan, the U.S., and the U.K.
When the contract was first signed with the German company on January 20 this year, a euro was valued at Rs.70.
Considering how even a marginal fall can hugely affect the cost of the project, a difference of Rs.20 was seen as insurmountable, taking into account the forward rate contract (which determines the rate of interest on the basis of the current trend of currency exchange rates) as well.
Now, pending a final decision by the executive committee of the KSSTM, chaired by the Education Minister, only 60 per cent of the project cost will be siphoned off from the budgetary allocation for the museum this financial year. This would come to Rs.7.2 crore.
The ball should be set rolling by this month, said KSSTM Director Arul Jerald Prakash said adding that the contract with Carl Zeiss had a shelf-life of only ten months.
“We need to at least initiate the modernisation process. We had initially thought of allocating the entire amount this financial year itself, and there still would have been balance funds to spend on the infrastructure development of the museum. As the rupee has depreciated, one of the only options we have is to pay 40 per cent of the project cost using 2014-15 budget allocation,” Mr. Jerald Prakash said. If the agreement expired, the time-consuming and expensive process of re-tendering would have to be carried out, he said.
Carl Zeiss had promised to supply components and install a state-of-the-art planetarium complex in 11 months.
Which means if the project is initiated shortly, the next instalment needs to be transferred only in August next year. The agency will deploy a team of experts to oversee the construction. Mr. Jerald Prakash said this modern digital full dome was in itself a massive work, making the city’s planetarium one of the most advanced in the country. It will also feature IMAX screening capabilities.