Kerala announces judicial probe into Vizhinjam port agreement, Chandy welcomes it

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Thiruvananthapuram, May 31 (IANS) The Kerala cabinet on Wednesday announced a judicial probe into the Vizhinjam port agreement that was inked by the then Oommen Chandy government with Adani Ports in 2015.

The announcement comes a few days after the CAG report on it was placed in the Kerala Assembly that cited faults in the agreement and stated that the state was in a disadvantageous position.

The cabinet appointed Justice (Rtd) C.N. Ramachandran as the head of the three-member probe panel to go into the agreement.

Chandy welcomed the probe and said an impartial judicial enquiry will put an end to the controversies.

“My only request to the Chief Minister is that a comparative study of the cost, benefit and investment of the state deriving from the present agreement, and the agreement adopted by the V.S. Achuthanandan government, may be also included in the terms of reference of the proposed enquiry,” said Chandy in his Facebook post.

Chandy also pointed out that an external consultant, R. Tulasidharan Pillai, a retired senior audit officer, was engaged by the Accountant General’s office to support the audit team.

“Pillai, before conduct of the audit, had written two articles on Kalakaumudi in December 2015 and February 2016. His views were highly prejudiced and was openly expressed before the audit was held. There are glaring similarities between the views expressed by Pillai in his articles written before the audit and the views expressed in the audit findings tabled in May 2017. The biased view and agenda of Pillai could have got imposed upon the audit team. His presence in the audit team could have denied a non-partisan audit based on documents and facts,” added Chandy.

Former Union Minister of Environment M. Veerappa Moily, who was in the capital city, told reporters that as Environment Minister he had given the sanction for Vizhinjam.

“Every clearance was given in conformity with the law, and there was nothing done to cause any loss to the state. After all, the CAG report is an audit report and there are rules to study such reports. Moreover Chandy himself has wholeheartedly welcomed the probe, so let it happen,” said Moily.

Meanwhile, Justice Ramachandran told the media that he will complete the probe and submit the report in six months’ time. He also said he is not taking any remuneration for it.

The Chandy government in 2015 inked the agreement for the Rs 7,525-crore Vizhinjam project with Adani Ports, which was the lone bidder and sought Rs 1,635 crore as grant for it. It had committed that the first phase of the port would be operational in 1,000 days from the date of commencement of work, which began in 2015.

According to the agreement, Adani would operate the port for 40 years, extendable by 20 more years, while the state government would get a portion of the revenue from the port after 15 years.

The new probe comes at a time when more than half of the work on the first phase of the port is over. On Thursday, Vijayan is to lay the foundation stone for berth piling at the port project site.

–IANS

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