KFON chief refutes allegations of inflated project cost

KFON Managing Director Santosh Babu. Photo: Manorama Online

Thiruvananthapuram: The implementation of the ambitious KFON project was entrusted to Bangalore-based SRIT, which was engaged as the Managed Service Provider (MSP), by floating a tender and the contract was awarded at 50 per cent higher amount than the initial estimated cost as it included maintenance contract for seven years as well, Managing Director Santosh Babu said on Wednesday.

He was responding to allegations made by Opposition leader V D Satheesan about the “inflated” project cost of the KFON project, ahead of the project inauguration by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Monday.

The project suffered an inordinate delay due to Covid. Free internet connection will be provided to 14,000 households by June end. The company will also start providing commercial connections this year. It aims to provide 2.5 lakh commercial connections in the first year, Santosh Babu said.

Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) is a public-funded project aimed at setting up a core network infrastructure to provide free internet access to economically backward households, besides ensuring high-speed internet service in the state. The project was conceived seven years back. It was then promised to provide free internet access to 20 lakh households in 18 months.

Later, the goal was revised to provide an internet connection to 14,000 households in the first phase. So far, 7,000 households have received an internet connection, and 1,000 started using the internet service.

Out of 30,000 government offices targeted, internet connection has been installed at 26,492 offices. The internet connection has been made available to a total of 18,700 offices. The OPGW (Optical Ground Wire) cable, as decided earlier, has been laid for a 2,600 km stretch as part of the project.

Oppn lambasts govt for splurging Rs 4.35 cr on KFON inauguration

V D Satheesan accused the LDF Government of “splurging” Rs 4.35 crore for the inauguration ceremony of KFON at a time when the state was staring at a financial crisis.

“Such a huge pile of money is being wasted for the launch ceremony to be held in a hall within the Legislative Assembly complex. The KFON project was once inaugurated by the Chief Minister with it at its infancy stage. This time, with yet another inauguration, the project is still at the implementation stage,” Satheesan lashed out.

Earlier, it was promised that 20 lakh poor people and 30,000 government offices will be provided with an internet connection in 18 months. Now they are saying the connection will be given only to 14,000 people in the first stage. The inauguration is being done without even achieving that, he charged.

“The Opposition will not cooperate with the KFON inauguration. This is not because of any objection to the project. The reason is corruption. The same companies involved in the AI camera scam are involved in KFON also,” the Opposition Leader said, adding that the UDF meeting has decided to initiate legal proceedings in the AI camera deal.

Neither the chief minister nor the finance minister knows why the Centre has slashed the borrowing limit of the state. Apart from officials, two persons have been appointed as representatives of the Kerala Government in Delhi at the expense of the people.

The government will get the information if it asks them to go to the Finance Ministry and make the query. The chief minister did not make even an attempt to do so, Satheeshan said.

The Opposition was the first to warn about the liability caused by KIIFB (Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund) and the pension fund if they were included in the borrowing limit, he claimed.

It was warned during the presentation of the KIIFB Bill that even though its borrowing was outside the state budget, it would become a liability within the budget and would affect the borrowing limit of the state.

“What the Opposition had warned appeared in the CAG report twice. A resolution was passed in the Assembly rejecting the CAG report. The act of rejection by the Assembly of a report of a constitutional body does not nullify the report,” Satheesan said, adding the Chief Minister, who knows “nothing” about the cut in the borrowing limit, is bullying the Opposition.

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