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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A new political war looms over technopark

Close on the heels of the tall talk by the CPM leaders about the drastic changes in the industrial environment in the State and the significant growth anticipated in the IT sector, the State IT Department and the IT companies at Technopark here are fast moving on a collision course.

According to sources, the CEOs in the Technopark here have been sharing a general feeling that they are no more welcome to the State Government.

Unlike in the past, Technopark authorities and the companies housed at the Park now find no way to settle the differences between them. Neither are the Park Centre authorities and the IT Department able to take up the issue in the right forum, nor have the companies an idea about whom to consult to settle the issues that warrant political will and policy intervention.

The collapsing relations between the IT companies on side and the State IT Department and the Park Centre on the other were in evidence at the recently-held KeralaIT.Com. Majority of the companies at the Park opted to keep out of the unprofessionally-organised IT exhibition.

Adding insult to injury, the IT Department and the Technopark authorities have declined to pay back the advance given by three companies in the Park for rented space in the newly-built block - ‘Thejaswini’. The three companies (two of them are the leading companies in their respective domains and had set up their facilities during the initial days of the Park) had paid three months’ rent in advance to the Park Centre.

However, owing to various reasons, these companies decided not to occupy the built up space allotted to them in Tejaswini. The Park Centre authorities, after consulting the IT Department, informed the companies that the advance given by them could not be refunded. There is no change in their stand, even after the Technopark authorities rented out the same space to some other companies.

Meanwhile, another vexed issue regarding the payment of building tax of Technopark buildings to the Corporation is yet to be sorted out. As a result of the efforts taken by a CPM councillor in the City Corporation, the Technopark authorities were asked to pay the building tax arrears since 2000. Under some false notion, the Technopark authorities were not paying building tax. However, when the Corporation sent notice, the IT Department instructed the Park Centre authorities to pay the arrears on their own and collect the same from the companies later.

Following the instruction, Technopark paid around Rs 1.75 crore to the Corporation. But when the Park Centre wanted the companies to pay the building tax arrears, the companies responded in the negative. According to them, the building tax payment is the responsibility of the lessor and lessee need not bother about the same. The Park Centre should have incorporated the building tax in the rent, they said.

According to sources, the Infopark in Kochi has been collecting the building tax from the companies by incorporating the same in the rent.

Without exploring the possibility for an amicable settlement of the issue, the IT Department decided to go by the legal advice. As per the legal advice, Technopark can claim the building tax arrears from the companies. Though the term Building Tax was not written explicitly in the lease agreement, the companies can be made liable for the same.

Moving a step ahead, the IT Department has now told the companies that if they did not pay the building tax arrears, disciplinary steps would be initiated against the companies and their lease wouldn’t be extended.

Though the companies had approached Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan, the result was a routine reply along the lines of ‘the matter will be looked into.’

(coutesy : newindpress)

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