Thiruvananthapuram: The intrigue surrounding the construction of Life Mission flats in Wadakkancherry was once again a subject of heated debate in the Assembly on Wednesday. And once again, there was nothing new in the government's response.
Local Self Government Minister A C Moideen, speaking for the government, repeated what the LDF had always been saying, that the UDF was trying to scuttle the Life Mission project that was drawing huge public support for the LDF government.
However, the High Court verdict allowing CBI probe into the Wadakkancherry Life Mission flats, has given the UDF an excuse to revive the discussion on the issue. It was brought in as an adjournment motion moved by Congress MLA Anil Akkara, the biggest critic of the project.
Right at the outset, Akkara said he was not against the project, a charge that the LDF had repeatedly hurled against him. He said it was he who had used his MLA funds to lay a forest road to the project site in Charalparambu at Wadakkancherry, Thrissur.
Akkara then had six questions for the minister. One, he wanted to know how two government orders related to the project could be issued on a single day, July 11, 2019; the first was the LSG Department's administrative sanction for Rs 15 crore for the construction of flats and the other was the signing of an MoU with UAE Red Crescent for the construction of 141 Life Mission flats at Wadakkancherry.
Akkara said the first order did not mention Wadakkancherry and alleged that it was at the insistence of M Sivasankar, the then principal secretary to the chief minister, that Wadakkancherry was chosen. He also said a single Department issuing two orders related to a project in a single day was unprecedented.
Two, Akkara said the foreign contribution was meant specifically for building homes for the flood affected. He said the High Court, too, had noted this.
Akkara said all those who had lost their homes during the floods in 2018 had received homes. The Wadakkancherry MLA wanted to know how the flats came under the Life Mission project.
Three, Akkara wanted to know how Unitac Builders ended up as the Project Management Consultant of the Wadakkancherry flats. He said that many firms like Habitat and Nirmithi Kendra were picked as PMCs through a tender process. "How did Unitac come in," he asked.
Four, Akkara asked why the government had waived the GST amount of Rs 3.5 crore for Unitac Builders.
Five, he said the original plan was to construct a hospital in the flat premises at Rs 1.5 crore. "But why is it now being constructed for just Rs 25 lakh," he asked.
Six, Akkara said that it was Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac who had first confirmed that a bribe of Rs 4.5 crore was paid as part of the Wadakkancherry project. "Doesn't the minister have the obligation to say this in the floor of the house," he said. (Isaac was not in the House as he was busy preparing the last budget of the LDF tenure).
Moideen avoided most of the questions but said Habitat was removed as PMC because Red Crescent offered a chance to construct homes for free. But that still left unexplained why Unitac was chosen over Habitat.
The minister then chose to launch a political attack on Akkara, bolstered by the realisation that such a strategy had won the CPM dividends during the local body polls.