Kozhikode: In a bid to promote private sector participation in building public amenities and other infrastructure the Kerala Government seems to be offering liberal terms.
A week ago it was reported that a chain of wayside amenity centres are coming up across the State on public plots that are being handed over to a private firm. This model was first adopted to build solid waste treatment plants in Kozhikode by the Zonta Infratech, the very firm which is blamed for the fire at the Brahmapuram waste dump yard in Kochi.
As per the terms agreed to by the Kozhikode Municipal Corporation the company can mortgage the public land to raise funds for the construction of the plant.
The contract has been given to Zonta Infratech as part of the Waste-to-Energy project. It has a provision to let out the government land to the private company. In effect, by allowing relaxations in the lease terms, the agreement facilitates any ‘dealings’ with the land.
The Waste-to-Energy project terms were cited as a model for the project to build wayside rest stations. As per the norms of the latter project the government has to hand over the property to the company named Overseas Kerala Investment and Holding Limited (OKIHL), an undertaking of some Non-Resident Keralites. Though this model was opposed by many local self-governance bodies, the contract was fixed after the Government’s intervention.
Meanwhile, Zonta Infratech was engaged by Kochi, Kollam, and Kannur Corporations too. However, its Waste-to-Energy project has not been implemented in a time-bound manner in not even one of these places. The contract issued by the Kozhikode Corporation has not been completed even after four years. The company has given a request letter seeking an extension of the contract. At Kannur, the contract has been cancelled.
This company has received tenders worth Rs 400 crore to build waste treatment plants within the limits of various local self-government bodies.
Conception of the Waste-to-Energy project
In 2019 May, a high-level team including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and then Chief Secretary Tom Jose had visited a plant in Geneva which generates power from waste. Soon after the team returned to Kerala, such a project was announced for the State. Within two months, Zonta Infratech was selected by the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) after inviting tenders, to run the project in Kozhikode. The company had furnished a certificate of previous experience citing it has done waste treatment at Thirunelveli in Tamil Nadu.
It was in 2014 that Rajkumar Chellappan Pilla, son-in-law of former LDF Convener Vaikkom Vishwan, took over as the Managing Director of the company. In 2016, his brother Raj Kishore also joined as a director.
Besides the two brothers, three others are also directors in the company. As per the registration details, the company headquartered in Bengaluru has an operational capital of Rs 17.22 lakh.
According to the details furnished with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the last annual general meeting was conducted in 2021 November. The last balance sheet was also filed 2 years ago.
The office of Zonta Group, an asset management company which operates in the field of environment conservation including waste management, is on the first floor of Reliable Phoenix Tower on Museum Road, Bengaluru.
The boards of other companies under the Zonta Group — Zonta Infratech, Zonta Bower, Edge Varsity Learning Systems and others — are also placed here. The website claims that the company was formed in 2010.