Pinarayi was reacting to Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala’s allegation that the US-based consultancy appointed for the project lacked credibility.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan During Press Meet
news Politics Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - 09:26

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has dismissed the Opposition allegations that the appointment of a US headquartered firm- Louis Berger- as the consultant for the proposed airport in Sabarimala was in violation of norms and said it was appointed for feasibility studies.

“The question of Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala on why a consultancy was appointed for the Sabarimala Greenfield airport before occupying the land for it is a good question. But that can be asked only by those who never want the airport to be a reality,” the Kerala CM said.

He was reacting to Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala’s allegation on the proposed airport project, while speaking to the media on Tuesday.

Pinarayi said the firm, Louis Berger, was appointed due to its high score among the shortlisted companies.

Opposition Congress Leader Ramesh Chennithala had earlier in the day alleged that the firm was appointed as consultant in 2017, even before the government finalised the site for the airport.

"Wasn't such an act a blatant disregard of norms? A consultancy raj exists in the state and the government was recklessly appointing consultancies even in minor projects," Chennithala said at a press meet in Thiruvananthapuram.

The CM said the land proposed was under the consideration of a civil court regarding its ownership.

"The state government's stand is that the land belongs to the government. We have filed a civil suit at the Pala sub court.

An amount was deposited as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation Act," he said.

The consultancy was appointed for the environment impact studies following a transparent procedure.

Three firms were shortlisted as per the technical qualifications and Louis Berger was selected due to its high score by a team of officials and experts, Pinarayi added.

The Chief Minister said the state government was "confident that the land belongs to the state and decided to conduct the feasibility studies."

The government had on June 18, issued an order to take over the 2,263.18-acre Cheruvally estate for the purpose of Sabarimala Airport and plans for the acquisition of land in Erumeli South and Manimala villages, he said.

Chennithala has alleged that the Chief Ministers Office (CMO) is using the fig leaf of consultancy to indulge in corruption.

The opposition has been attacking the government over various issues including the gold smuggling case involving diplomatic baggage recently.

The opposition leader also alleged that though the US-headquartered global professional services firm was appointed in November 2017, its contribution in three years was a 38-page report.

He claimed that while the government is now proposing Cheruvally Estate in Erumely as the airport site, representatives of the firm couldn't even enter the land.

"The land which rightly belongs to the state government is in the custody of another group now who prevented their entry. Though the government has doubts about its rights on the land, the Congress-led UDF is firm that the land belongs to the government," Chennithala said.

The opposition had earlier raised an allegation against the state government that the collection of data by a US company violated the fundamental rights of COVID-19 patients and moved the Kerala High Court seeking quashing of its contract with the firm.

The court had then permitted the state government to utilise the services of the firm Sprinklr, for processing data, subject to stringent conditions.

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