Monday, November 26, 2007

Smart game behind Smart City

Smart city is an initiative taken by Dubai Internet City to invest in India. The project was actually lightened by the Congress government under Oommen Chandy (ex-chief minister) and finally approved by the Left government under Achuthanandan, the current chief minister here. However it was the single-handed initiative by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy which has managed to get Kerala a major investment opportunity in the green sector - the Rs 1,700-crore Smart City proposed by the Dubai Internet City which will come up in Kochi. Several states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were after the the Dubai Internet City for the project, and finally Kerala bagged the project.
Kerala government announced that they received the letter saying they have decided to set up the Smart City at Kochi. Several states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were after the the Dubai Internet City for the project, and finally Kerala bagged the project. The project was actually claimed by both the ruling Left Democratic Front and the opposition United Democratic Front as their achievement. The congress party also backed out from signing the deal just before the election. The possibility of signing the agreement was again put to question when the left got the rule. The project, which demanded as many as 300 acres of land in Kochi at a cheaper rate, evoked criticism from a section of political leaders, particularly the CPM-led Opposition, right from the beginning.

According to them, the move would finally end up in the state losing huge area of land without substantial return in terms of employment generation.

Adding more trouble to the smooth processing of the project proposal, the state bureaucracy failed to prepare a draft MoU within the stipulated time frame set by the DIC. Many speculations were there among the public regarding the issue. After a series of discussions and controversies, finally it was put into an agreement on May 13. State IT director Ajay Kumar and TECOM executive director Farid Abdul Rahman signed the lease deed for 234.5 acres of land earmarked for SmartCity for 99 years.
The Rs1,700-crore project aims to generate as many as 90,000 jobs and build 88 lakh square feet of office space in three phases spanning ten years. To start with, Kerala government is providing them 200 acres of land in Kakkanadu, near the Kochi Infopark. The Smart City, expected to create more than 100,000 new jobs in the first stage and around 5 Lakhs jobs directly and indirectly in the last stage, would provide critical infrastructure for IT services and IT-enabled service companies.

Though the present agreement empowers the government to take over the project if the company backs down on its promises, opposition leader Oommen Chandy alleges that the government had actually shouldered a heavy burden. The state government is leasing 246 acre of land for 99 years for the Smart City project for Rs 104 crore. The project, the first major FDI in the IT sector in Kerala, would be spread over 8.8 million square feet built up area, of which 70 per cent would be for IT and ITeS. It is to be modelled along the lines of the Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City.
The smart city gives a great opportunity for Kerala to compete with Karnataka and Tamilnadu in Information Technology. Due to the presence of the marxist parties, Kerala is flooded with strikes and trade unions.