Alappuzh: Kerala's Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala on Tuesday asked the state government to spell out its policy on PPPs after some ministers found fault with the Haripad medical college project.
The ministers' complaints about Haripad medical college, the first public-private partnership (PPP) in the health sector in Kerala, are uninformed and unwarranted, said Chennithala, who initiated the project as home minister in the previous government.
"The ministers appear to have got their facts wrong. It's surprising to hear from them that 800 acres of land was acquired for the project," Chennithala told reporters here.
"This is ridiculous. All that was acquired was 15 acres by a high level official committee headed by the district collector," he said.
The previous government said it would have 26 percent equity in the Rs 300 crore project and the remaining 74 percent would be raised from the private parties.
"This is the model on which the hugely successful Cochin airport and the upcoming Kannur airport is based on," Chennithala said.
State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, however, said on Sunday that the project was likely to saddle the government with onerous financial liabilities and result in levelling of large tracts of wetland and paddy fields.
Rs 89 crore are to be taken from NABARD as loan for the project.
"If this amount is not repaid to NABARD, all the financial liability will come on the shoulders of the state government. So we will inspect and review the finance and funding of this project in detail," Isaac said.
Health Minister K.K. Shylaja was even harsher in her criticism of the project which was sanctioned by the previous UDF government in August 2012.
She suggested on Sunday that there was "corporate and real estate mafia" behind the project.
Criticism of the project also came from the influential Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP), a voluntary organisation with membership in thousands, which said the PPP project would pave the way for the total decline of the existing Alappuzha medical college hospital.
Chennithala said Alappuzha is the only district -- his home district -- in Kerala where there is only one medical college, which is why he took the initiative to set up another.
He said he would write to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to ask him what his policy is going to be vis-a-vis PPP projects.
Shailaja told reporters on Tuesday: "If Chennithala's hands are clean then there need be no issue at all for him to worry."
The Vijayan government will take up this issue at Wednesday's cabinet meeting and is expected to make its stand clear if they will go ahead with this project.