The Vytilla and Kundannur flyovers in Kerala’s Kochi, which will ease traffic congestion in one of the fastest growing metropolitan cities, were opened to the public on Saturday by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Built along the NH Bypass, the flyovers cost of Rs 165 crore and were funded by the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).
The six-lane flyover at Kundannoor would ease the movement of vehicles in the Aroor-Vyttila direction and back, and vehicles in the other directions would rely on service roads beneath the structure. At Vytilla junction, one of the busiest spots in Kochi, the Public Works Department (PWD) has built traffic islands and a roundabout for vehicles not using the flyover and going in different directions.
These flyovers are only a part of the infrastructure development in the state initiated by the current Left Democratic Front (LDF) regime, which has not confined itself to just building some roads and bridges. A total of 520 bridges and flyovers have been completed by the Kerala PWD, led by minister G Sudhakaran. Schools and colleges, hospitals, government offices, public parks, playgrounds etc., have also been built, without any rural and urban difference.
The key force behind infrastructure development in the state is KIIFB, corporate body established by the KIIF Act, 1999, which was modified in 2016 through the Kerala Infrastructure Investment (Amendment) Act, 2016. The modifications expanded KIIFB’s scope of mobilising and channelling funds for facilitating “planned, hassle-free and sustainable development” of both physical and social infrastructure, including major land acquisition needs that are integral to development, using financial instruments approved by the market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and banking regulator Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
KIIFB has so far approved funding for projects worth Rs 60, 102 crore, covering vital sectors like healthcare, education, transportation, water and power supply. It funded more than Rs 20,000 crore worth projects in 2020-21, as per the state budget.
Political observers point out that Kerala’s development initiatives are making a mark at a time when the Bharatiya Janata party-led Central government has cut Central funds, tax shares and budget layers for states.
The Centre has also targeted Kerala’s Life Mission, which aims to provide safe and housing for all across the state, and through this KIIFB had also come under the radar of central investigative agencies. Later, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) was also accused of “unfairly targeting” KIIFB in its report by the state finance minister. This had kicked up a political row, with the Opposition accusing him of “leaking” the report before it was tabled in the Assembly. He, however, maintained that it was the draft report.
In November 2020, Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, had lashed out at the CAG for its "findings" in its draft report that KIIFB was raising loans "unconstitutionally." Dismissing the findings, he told reporters that the state government would not allow CAG to destroy KIIFB, the primary agency of the state government for financing large and critical infrastructure projects in the state.
"They (CAG) claim the KIIFB loans are unconstitutional. Since 1999, CAG had audited KIIFB nine times and prepared the audit report. This allegation was not raised any time before this. The Indian Constitution is not a book which can be interpreted by any person, appointed as CAG, according to his political leanings," Isaac had told reporters.
The CAG audit began in January last year and all the documents sought were submitted, he said, adding 76 audit queries were raised by the Attorney General's office and detailed replies were given. Pointing out that KIIFB was a corporate body and like any other such institutions, he said it had the right to raise loans as per the existing rules.
Corporate bodies of the Central government have also availed such loans. The CAG observation that KIIFB violated Article 293(1) of the Indian Constitution was baseless, he said, adding that the Article deals with loans of the state government.
The state government requires permission from the centre for taking loans. But in this case, it's a corporate body that is taking the loan and not the state government, the minister had said.
(With inputs from PTI)