Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday dismissed the Opposition allegation that the appointment of a US headquartered firm as the consultant for the proposed Sabarimala greenfield airport was in violation of norms and said it was appointed for feasibility studies.
Vijayan said the firm, Louis Berger, was appointed due to its high score among the shortlisted companies.
Opposition Congress Leader Ramesh Chennithala had earlier in the day alleged that the firm was appointed as consultant in 2017, even before the government finalised the site for the airport.
"Wasn''t such an act a blatant disregard of norms? A consultancy raj exists in the state and the government was recklessly appointing consultancies even in minor projects," Chennithala said at a press meet here.
Vijayan said the land proposed was under the consideration of a civil court regarding its ownership.
"The state government''s stand is that the land belongs to the government.We have filed a civil suit at the Pala sub court.
An amount was deposited as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation Act," he said.
The consultancy was appointed for the environment impact studies following a transparent procedure.
Three firms were shortlisted as per the technical qualifications and Louis Berger was selected due to its high score by a team of officials and experts, Vijayan said.
The Chief Minister said the state government was "confident that the land belongs to the state and decided to conduct the feasibility studies."
The government had on June 18, issued an order to take over the 2,263.18 acre Cheruvally estate for the purpose of Sabarimala Airport and plans for the acquisition of land in Erumeli South and Manimala villages, he said.
Chennithala has alleged that the Chief Ministers Office (CMO) is using the fig leaf of consultancy to indulge in corruption.
The opposition has been attacking the government over various issues including the gold smuggling case involving diplomatic baggage recently.
The opposition leader also alleged that though the US-headquartered global professional services firm was appointed in November 2017, its contribution in three years was a 38-page report.
He claimed that while the government is now proposing Cheruvally Estate in Erumely as the airport site, representatives of the firm couldn''t even enter the land.
"The land which rightly belongs to the state government is in the custody of another group now who prevented their entry.
Though the government has doubts about its rights on the land, the Congress-led UDF is firm that the land belongs to the government," Chennithala said.
The opposition had earlier raised an allegation against the state government that the collection of data by a US company violated the fundamental rights of COVID-19 patients and moved the Kerala High Court seeking quashing of its contract with the firm.
The court had then permitted the state government to utilise the services of the firm Sprinklr, for processing data, subject to stringent conditions.