Company facing Vigilance case over sale of compost from waste-treatment plant run by it

A special Corporation Council meeting last week extended the contract with Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd. (IL&FS) for running the waste-treatment plant at Njeliyanparamba by two years.

The Mumbai-based company, which has been running the plant for five years, is, however, facing a case registered by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau related to the sale of compost from the plant.

In the first information report (FIR) registered on March 6, the agency named the former Mayor M. Bhaskaran and three Corporation officers as responsible for the loss sustained by the Corporation from a deal with the company. The extension of the contract comes at a time when a charge sheet is expected in the case.

“The Corporation authorities had purchased 1,605 kg of compost from IL&FS for a rate of Rs. 2.50 per kilogram, which was already sold to the company for a rate of 60 paise per kilogram by the Corporation and thereby caused monetary loss of Rs. 22.46 lakhs to the Corporation,” the FIR said.

Mayor A.K. Premajam told The Hindu that she was unaware of such a case.

“I have not heard of the case,” she said.

“The Corporation sold the compost to the company and bought it back for thrice the price through another department. This is clearly with the profit of the company in mind,” said K.P. Vijayakumar of the Corporation anti-corruption committee, who is the petitioner in the case.

The contract was set to expire in June. The Corporation had not made any alternative arrangement as plans are afoot to set up a modern waste-treatment plant in the location. The delay from the State government’s side on the new project is cited as the reason for the extension of the contract.

However, the Opposition councillors said that they had come to know about the plan to extend contract only after the decision was taken.

“The decision to extend the contract was taken at a meeting in the Mayor’s chamber. The file came to the Standing Committee on Health only after that,” P. Kishenchand, councillor from the Socialist Janata (Democratic) said.

Alternative proposal

The Integrated Rural Technology Centre (IRTC), an arm of the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad, had submitted a detailed proposal with suggestions to improve the plant.

“We had given a proposal to streamline the operations of the plant, including steps to contain leachate, which has been creating problems for people residing in the surrounding areas. But nothing happened on this proposal. The plant is not being run efficiently,” K. Sreedharan, former Director of the IRTC, said.

He said compost could be a source of huge revenue for the Corporation. The extended agreement stipulated that in the first year, the company would have to pay the existing royalty payment of Rs. 40,000 a month and for the second year, the sum would be increased by 10 per cent. Selling compost would fetch much higher returns.

The situation near the plant has not changed much. A District Court order dated April 11, 2012, directed the Corporation to “make necessary upgrade to the present treatment plant and complete the construction of the leachate treatment plant within six months of the date.” Under sections 326 to 332 of the Kerala Municipality Act, 1994, the civic body should dispose of solid waste and filth within a year.

“Even after the time stipulated by the court has passed, the Corporation has not carried out any of its directions. The air stinks all the time and untreated leachate has been poisoning groundwater. The Corporation does not want to solve the issue as the plant is a goose that lays golden eggs,” said O. Koya of Njeliyanparamba, who led the legal struggle against the plant.

Mr. Vijayakumar said a people’s protest would be held on Tuesday against the extension of contract with a company having a corrupt record.

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