Kerala firm on SmartCity pact: S.Sarma

S. Sarma rules out discussions on the basis of media reports.

KOCHI: Fisheries and Registration Minister S. Sarma has said that no further discussions will be held with Tecom, promoters of the SmartCity Kochi project, unless it raises its grievances before the State government officially.

“The State government cannot hold discussions merely on the basis of media reports,” Mr. Sarma said on the sidelines of function here on Friday. He was responding to queries of mediapersons regarding Tecom’s allegation that the State government’s reluctance to accept the provision of 12 per cent freehold land was holding up the project. He said that if Tecom raised the issue officially, the State government was prepared to hold discussions within the contours of the framework agreement.

The Minister reiterated that the State government firmly stood by the agreement it had entered into with Tecom. There was no difference of opinion or any hurdle in the project’s implementation, he said. Mr. Sarma also said that the provision for the 12 per cent freehold land was included in clause 5 (4) of the framework agreement.

Responding to reports that the Union government had turned down the State’s demand for including fishermen in the purview of the Agriculture Debt Waiver & Debt Relief Scheme, Mr. Sarma said that the State government had not yet received any intimation from the Centre declining or accepting the demand.

He said the latest reports said that the issue was now before the Union finance ministry. “Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar had agreed to accept the State’s demand initially,” he said.

He termed as “unfortunate” the delay on the part of the Union government to accept the State’s demand, which it had agreed to initially. Mr. Sarma said that the State government had decided to approach the Central government again on the issue.

Asked whether the State government would consider bringing fishermen within the purview of the State agriculture debt relief scheme, the Fisheries Minister said that this was already under the consideration of the Kerala Farmers’ Debt Relief Commission.

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The proposed Rs.15-billion Smart City Kochi IT park Tuesday suffered a setback after Smart City Dubai, which has signed a pact with the state government to develop the project, said it wanted the freehold land issue resolved.

This was informed in a press release, issued Tuesday by Smart City Dubai chief executive Fareed Abdulrahman, who said they were assigned to Smart City Kochi and still heavily involved in the development of the project and had not pulled back from their roles and responsibilities.

“However, the office fit-out of Josh Towers (also at Kochi) and the recruitment of additional people have been put on hold till the freehold land issue is resolved,” read the release.

Smart City Dubai wants the state to give 12 percent freehold rights on the property as was agreed at the time of the signing of the agreement, but says now the government has different opinion on that.

The project is slated to come up on a 246-acre plot, with an 8.8 million square feet of built-up space, of which 70 percent is earmarked for IT and IT-enabled Services.

The foundation stone of the project was laid Nov 16, 2007 by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and since then, barring seven board meetings, there has been no movement forward.

The Smart City Dubai is upset with the state government on account of the slow progress with regards to the stamp duty for the registration of the land, and also on the granting of special economic zone (SEZ) status for the entire project.

So far, for the project’s first phase, only 136 acres were granted SEZ clearance last year.

Source

The SmartCity

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