1st phase of Kochi Smart City opens amid Left boycott

Kochi, Feb 20 (IANS) The first phase of Kochi Smart City project – a 6.5 lakh square feet IT tower – was inaugurated on Saturday but the Left opposition boycotted the function.

No one from the Left opposition turned up at the inauguration of the project, which aims to make Kerala a prime IT destination in the world, even though Leader of Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan was one of the high-profile invitees.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF), led by Communist Party of India-Marxist, views Chief Minister Oomen Chandy as heading a corrupt government that has recently been buffeted by the ‘bar bribery scam’ and the ‘solar scam’.

The project — in which state government has 16 percent share and TECOM Investments, a subsidiary of Dubai Holdings 84 percent share — has deepened and strengthened the relations between Kerala and UAE, said Chandy.

Present at the inauguration were UAE’s Cabinet Affairs Minister and Dubai Holdings chairman Mohammed Al Gargawi, Dubai Holdings vice chairman and managing director Ahmad Binbyat, and other officials of the state government and Dubai Holdings.

In the first phase, 5,500 new jobs would be created and 27 information technology (IT) companies have already taken 75 percent of the leasable space.

“Today is a proud moment for all of us as our dream project has become a reality and this project is a lesson for our development initiative. Once the second and third phase of the project is ready by 2020, a record 90,000 jobs will be there,” said the chief minister.

This is not yet another project, but one which will open the doors to the world and it could even create an opportunity for a reverse brain drain, Chandy said.

“Our youths should not have to go in search of jobs outside the state, we should be able to create it here.”

Al Gargawi said this is an important milestone project for the UAE government.

“Kerala is all set to become the leading destination as huge progress is being made in the telecommunication and IT sectors. This project when finally ready would be a model one for the world and this is certainly a great leap forward for all,” said Al Gargawi.

State Industries and IT minister P.K. Kunhalikutty said the project has been a long time in the making.

“It was a casual discussion that began in 2004 in Dubai that started the project and it was in 2005 November that the MoU for the project was inked under the then Chandy government,” he said.

The framework agreement was signed in 2007 under the V.S. Achuthanandan government and it was taken forward again only in 2011 after the present Chandy government assumed office, said Kunhalikutty.

Once completed, Kochi Smart City will cover 246 acres.

Saturday also saw the launching of the second phase of the project, which will have seven towers with total area of 4.7 million sq ft; it is expected to be ready in 36 months.

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