Making it official on record, the Kerala Government inked an agreement with Adani Ports for the construction of State’s ambitious Vizhinjam deep sea port project on Monday, the auspicious day of ‘Chingam’ 1, the first day of the year according to the Malayalam calendar.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Adani Group chief Gautam Adani were present when the agreement was signed between state Ports Secretary James Varghese and Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Limited CEO Santhosh Kumar Mahapatra at an event which started at 5.00 pm at the Durbar Hall of state secretariat.
Kerala Ports Minister K. Babu, Finance Minister K.M. Mani, Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar, Assembly Speaker N. Sakthan were also present at the event.
The construction will start on November 1, the Kerala formation day.
‘Project to be over before schedule’
Speaking at the event, Gautam Adani, chairman of Adani Group of companies, said that his company will make Vizhinjam one of the top container terminals in the world.
“We will not be committing to any other investments in Kerala anytime soon. Our entire focus will be on Vizhinjam project. The importance that Vizhinjam has when it comes to trade is huge,” Adani said.
“I came to Kerala with another project seven years ago. However, it did not materialise as the then government did not take any steps. I don’t know the reasons too,” he added.
Funds not a concern: Govt
In the morning, Gautam Adani called on CM and other top political leaders of Kerala, ahead of the signing.
Adani, who arrived here along with a 10-member team, first called on Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and his cabinet colleagues.
“This was a pre-agreement meeting. We will go ahead with this project and talk to all those who have expressed concerns about the project. All concerns would be addressed,” Chandy said after the meeting.
“Funds for the project are not a concern,” state Finance Minister K.M. Mani said.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Gautam Adani said that the construction of Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport project will be completed before schedule.
Adani calls on VS
Though the LDF Opposition had announced earlier that it would not take part in the event, Gautam Adani and his son Karan Adani called on Opposition Leader V.S. Achuthanandan at the CPM veteran’s house earlier in the day.
Achuthanandan, who had opted to skip the event of the agreement signing, welcomed the Adani Group chairman but made it clear that there won’t be any change in the stand maintained by his party regarding the Vizhinjam port project.
Adanis’ meeting with Achuthanandan took about 20 minutes.
Later, Adani held meetings with the State BJP leaders.
Wait of 25 years
The signing of the agreement is historical as it comes 25 years after the project was first mooted.
The central government too is participating in the project, to be completed in three phases at a cost of around Rs 7,525 crore.
“If Vizhinjam was in any other state of India, the port would have been a reality more than quarter of a century back. Everything that a port needs is there in Vizhinjam,” Chandy had said earlier, taking a dig at the Opposition over its objection to the project.
Though the first phase is expected to be ready in four years, Adani Ports officials told Chandy they would finish it in around two years.
Once completed, the port would enable ships with a capacity of even 18,000 TEU (20-feet equivalent units) to dock.
TEU is an inexact unit of cargo capacity often used to describe the capacity of container ships and container terminals.
The proposed port, located close to the busy international shipping route, is envisaged to handle 4.1 million containers annually.
Ports Minister K. Babu had said earlier that Vizhinjam was the single biggest infrastructure project after the Idukki Dam and Kochi airport that’s going to materialise in the state.
“This is going to benefit not only the State, but the whole country,” Babu had said.
CPM sticks to its stance
The CPM has been terming the MoU as a ‘rip-off’.
Achuthanandan told reporters on Sunday that of the total project cost Adani is to bring in Rs 2,454 crore.
“He has been given 500 acres of land, of which the port will need 300 acres. The land value of the 500 acres is estimated to be Rs 5,000 crore and if he pledges this land, he can raise Rs 3,000 crore,” Achuthanandan said then.
“So, on day one Adani gets Rs 546 crore. This is what Chief Minister Oommen Chandy claims to be the dream project of Kerala,” he added.
Adani Ports was the lone bidder and sought Rs 1,635 crore as grant for the project. It would operate the port for 40 years, extendable by another 20 years. The state government would get a portion of the revenue from the port after 15 years of operations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to lay the foundation stone of the project on November 1.