In keeping with the media glare on the so-called "mega-projects", the New Indian Express has done a two-part expose on the shady dealings behind the Sobha Hi-tech City project which deals mainly with the setting up of shell companies and their links with the most-famous real-estate shark in Kerala, Sri Pharis Aboobacker. The setting up of shell companies is pretty normal to avoid the restrictions imposed by the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963, which prohibit anyone from owning more than 15 acres of land in Kerala. However, the clear links of these shell companies with Pharis and the way they have been set up is a clear raised flag, which calls the entire project into question.
The way that the project was planned in land classified under CRZ 1 also makes wonder if there were any sane minds involved in the land identification and acquisition phase. There has been a massive out-cry against the possible ecological damage. Why doesn't anyone wonder why the project promoters look for some other parcel of land? There are plenty of 400 acre parcels even in the same district, not to mention the rest of Kerala, without having to encroach on to wet-lands and mangroves.
The final nail in the coffin is of course the fact the promoter itself is trying to sell the land off to repay its mounting debts. If they themselves don't want it, why is everyone else so bothered, I wonder?
I sure do hope that the lessons learned from this debacle will be put to good use in the future in weeding out undeserving applicants to the mega-project clearance process.