Bidding for Rs 232-crore AI camera project was fixed: Ramesh Chennithala

Bidding for Rs 232-crore AI camera project was fixed: Ramesh Chennithala

Express News Service | Published: 03rd May 2023 07:30 AM

Muslim Youth League state general secretary P K Firos covers an AI camera with a basket during the protest march against installation of the equipment.(Photo | A Sanesh , EPS)

KASARGOD: Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala on Tuesday released documents to emphasise his allegation that a cartel was formed to hand over the Rs 232-crore AI (artificial intelligence) traffic camera project to SRIT India Private Limited, a company which has connections with Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society Ltd (ULCCS).

“The tender process was fixed. Their preferred company was SRIT,” the former leader of opposition told reporters in Kasaragod on Tuesday. He alleged the scam would be around Rs 132 crore. “Keltron admitted that the cameras and other equipment are being bought for Rs 75 crore. The miscellaneous expenditure could take the cost to Rs 85 crore. Let’s say Rs 100 crore finally. But SRIT is implementing the project for Rs 232 crore,” Chennithala said.

He said the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD) tapped the Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation (Keltron) to install 726 AI cameras. In 2020, Keltron, as the Project Management Consultancy (PMC), invited bids. “Four companies bid for the project. None of them had experience installing traffic cameras with AI,” said Chennithala.  

“Keltron rejected the application of Gujarat Infotech Limited saying it lacked organisational capacity and project experience. After technical evaluation, Keltron found SRIT India Pvt Ltd, Ashoka Buildcon Ltd, and Akshara Enterprises Pvt Ltd “qualified” to bid. The technical evaluation summary report was signed by Keltron’s heads. But one of the conditions for lead bidders was that it should be in operation for at least 10 years. Hyderabad-based Akshara Enterprises was incorporated on February 7, 2017. As of today, it is only six years and two months old,” Chennithala said. At the time of bidding, it was only three years old. How did Keltron find Akshara qualified to bid, he asked. 

He said the winning bidder SRIT was “their favourite” company all along. “SRIT has no technical qualification (to bid for the project). So they roped in Trois Infotech and Kozhikode-based Presadio Technologies,” he said.

Trois, based in Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram, has expertise in AI cameras. Its MD T Jithesh has worked as MD of the joint venture between SRIT and ULCCS.

Initially, Keltron chairman and MD N Narayana Murthy denied knowledge of SRIT sub-contracting the project to other companies, he said. “However, after the documents were released, Keltron admitted to knowing the firms,” he said. Keltron later said the government was not paying for the project, he said. 

“It is true. The government is not paying for the project. It intends to squeeze the poor public,” he said. 
If a couple travels on their scooter with their two children and the AI cameras pick them up at four spots, the family would have to pay Rs 2,000. “The money will not come to the government. It will go to the pockets of these paper companies,” Chennithala said.

The sub-contracting of the project has inflated its cost. There is blatant corruption, the Congress leader pointed out. “The chief minister is dismissing the charges of corruption made based on documents as a smokescreen to scuttle the AI traffic camera project. But the opposition will not withdraw the charges and would press it harder,” he said.

Industries minister P Rajeeve initiated a strange step by asking his principal secretary to inquire into the allegation but at the same time gave a clean chit to Keltron, he said. 

Against the backdrop of such a clean chit and the chief minister’s smokescreen comment, what would be the result of the inquiry? “That’s why we demand a judicial inquiry into the corruption,” Chennithala said. Soon after Chennithala’s press conference, Transport Minister Antony Raju, too, sought an explanation from the transport commissioner on the allegations against Keltron.H

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