news Friday, May 15, 2015 - 05:30
Even as Chairman and Founder of Adani Group Gautam Adani trots the globe in tow behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi to expand his business empire, one of his projects in the state of Kerala seems to be at the centre of a spat between the Left and Congress. Meanwhile, the BJP in the state is watching from the sidelines. The United Democratic Front (UDF) government in Kerala has awarded Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited the contract for the construction, operation and development of the proposed Vizhinjam seaport and the container transshipment terminal at Vizhinjam. The board of directors of the prestigious Vizhinjam Seaports International Limited which is to be carried out on a public-private partnership (PPP) model announced the decision on Wednesday. The director board meet approved the report of the high powered panel led by chief secretary to hand over the project to Adani Group.  Kerala minister for ports K Babu told media that a final decision on the board recommendation would be taken in the next cabinet meeting he had also added that if not now the project would never come up. “The government is of the opinion that if not now, the project would never come up”, Babu added. Controversy Earlier five companies, including a Korean and a Spanish firm, had evinced interest in partnering with the state government for the Vizhinjam project. But later on, only Essar Ports, Adani Ports and a consortium of SREI Infrastructure and OHL submitted Expression of Interest (EOI) for submitting tenders last month. However, when the other bidders failed to file the final bid, Adani Ports became the lone bidder. The project had faced hurdles with no company submitting final bid even after the last date for bidding ended by the end of February. This created huge controversy, the opposition alleging irregularities in the bidding process. A dream project of the state, the project has already suffered delay of over a decade, for want of bidders. However, the CPIM national leadership has been highly critical of Gautam Adani, even terming him a capitalist. After the final decision from the board of directors opposition had alleged that Vizhinjam project was virtually being gifted to the Adani group by Oommen Chandy government. "Modi in a way has become the lead player in handing over lot of projects to the Adani group, especially in Gujarat. Even the next unit of the Cochin Shipyard is going to be commissioned in Gujarat," said VS Achuthanandan, Leader of Opposition in Kerala. “The government’s move to gift it to one particular group without learning any lesson from the  Vallarpadam container transhipment terminal, has raised serious concerns,” Communist Party of India (CPI) State unit secretary Kanam Rajendran told media on Wednesday in a press meet in Thiruvananthapuram. However, minister K Babu said it is hypocritical of Achuthanandan to oppose Adani ports now, when in his tenure (2006-11), his government had contacted Adani for the proposed Vizhinjam port. "In the next few days, I will be meeting the media to expose the Left and their ways of confusing the people of the state," he said. CPI (M) Leader MA Baby has levelled serious allegations against Adani. "It is not believable that all other four companies withdrew their bids, we are sure that Adani and his company forced the others out," he told TNM. MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted in support of the project. “Vizhinjam Port is a dream for Tvm for 25yrs. Mr Adani is welcome to build it as far as I'm concerned. National interest 1st”, read his tweet. The project The proposed project is to develop an international deep water multipurpose seaport at Vizhinjam, about 16 kms from Thiruvananthapuram. The estimated cost for building the port superstructure is Rs 6,000 crore and the port will operate for a period of forty years is. The first phase of the project would cost Rs 7,525 crore. Of this, Adani Group would invest Rs 2,454 crore and the state Rs 4,253 crore. The first phase of the port is to come up near Kovalam beach and is expected to be completed in three phases, with the first phase to be ready by 2019. Last month, Vizhinjam seaport project became the first port project in the country to get Rs.800 crore viability gap funding from the central government. Once completed, ships with a capacity of even 18,000 TEU (20-foot equivalent units) will be able to dock at the port. The proposed port, located close to the busy international shipping route, is envisaged to handle 4.1 million containers annually.  Inputs IANS