V D Satheesan | Photo: PTI
Kozhikode/Kasaragod: The Congress party on Tuesday continued to target the Left government in Kerala alleging that there were irregularities in the awarding of contracts and commissions for the installation of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based traffic cameras across the state under the Safe Kerala initiative.
In April, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had inaugurated the 'Safe Kerala' project, envisaged to reduce road accidents and traffic violations in the state.
The opposition party claimed that the works and the commissions for the major project went to a Kozhikode-based private company which has close ties with the leadership of the ruling CPI(M).
Addressing a press conference in Kozhikode, senior Congress MLA and the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly V D Satheesan claimed that the Kozhikode-based company had received all the purchase orders and the sub-contracts from the companies involved in the AI camera project, the K-FON project being one among others.
Satheesan said more evidence had come out showing that the project works and the commission money for all these projects were going to the same people.
Releasing a set of documents allegedly related to the AI camera project, Satheesan claimed that the Kozhikode-based private company, allegedly close to the ruling party, was gaining money from the state's coffers.
"Who owns this company? Is it a benami company? What's their connection with the chief minister's office? Such matters should come out. Then the kingpin of the AI camera deal will be revealed," Satheesan said.
Meanwhile, in a statement, state Congress chief and MP K Sudhakaran said his party would oppose the AI camera implementation like it had opposed the K-Rail project in the state.
Sudhakaran said a strong protest would be organised and the AI project would not be allowed to implemented in the present manner.
The Congress leader alleged that Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation Limited (Keltron), which has been implementing the AI camera project, had assured the government that Rs 424 crore could be collected from the public as fines for various violations within five years.
"If it's implemented now, the fine collected will be over Rs 1,000 crore. That's why the project is being implemented in a hurried manner without creating any awareness among the public," Sudhakaran alleged.
He asked why the chief minister was silent over the matter.
Senior Congress leader and MLA Ramesh Chennithala had earlier in the day claimed that the AI camera project, which should have cost only below Rs 100 crore, was completed at double the cost of Rs 232 crore.
Addressing the media in Kasaragod, the former Leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly claimed that one of the private companies that was considered to be technically qualified in the tender process did not have the requisite experience.
"The Congress party has released various documents that can show the irregularities behind the installation of AI cameras as part of the Safe Kerala project," Chennithala added.
Chennithala and other Congress leaders have been alleging that the Left government had indulged in some irregularities in awarding the tender for the setting up of a fully-automated traffic enforcement system.
The Kerala government had in 2020 entered into an agreement with Keltron for the project. Chennithala has been alleging that Keltron then awarded the contract for the project to Bengaluru-based SRIT India Pvt Ltd, but in violation of tender norms.
He had also alleged that the common man was being looted to fill the coffers of the companies of friends and relatives of the ruling Left front.
The Congress leader claimed it was clear that SRIT, the company that bagged the tender for the project from Keltron, did not have the requisite experience and that it had approached some five other inexperienced firms to complete the project.
"A project which could have been completed for Rs 100 crore was implemented at a cost of Rs 232 crore. Around Rs 132 crore was now given to some benami companies. What else can we call it other than corruption?" Chennithala alleged.
He claimed that there had been irregularities in the tender process.
The senior Congress leader alleged that even though some documents were uploaded on Keltron's website, some other important documents were yet to be made public.