Indian High Commission responds to Daily Mirror expose

23 April 2024 12:00 am – 0      – 86

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In response to the Daily Mirror expose titled “Plantation community alleges presence of ‘scam’ behind Indian Housing Project” which was published on April 17, 2024, (on pages 4 and 5) the Indian High Commission has sent the following response –

I write in response to the ‘Expose’ titled ‘Plantation community alleges presence of scam behind Indian Housing Project’ in Daily Mirror edition on 17 April 2024.
At the outset, we would like to mention that certain points mentioned in the Article are outdated and do not reflect the factual position with respect to the current status of Phase-IV of the Indian Housing Project. Further, a specific instance which refers to the Indian Housing Project in Elkaduwa estate pertains to Phase-III of the Project, under which 4000 houses are being constructed in plantation regions of Sri Lanka.
In the above backdrop, the following specific points may be noted:
i)  Selection process of Implementing Agencies – High Commission of India engaged four Implementing Agencies through a selection process in the second and third phases of Indian Housing Project. This included NHDA as well.

As regards Implementing Agencies for the fourth Phase, the High Commission of India followed a very transparent selection process – the details of which are available in newspapers and other open sources. An Expression of Interest was floated and several interested parties including those who were associated with the third and fourth phases responded to the same (Relevant newspaper notice is attached). Thereafter, the selection process involved both technical and financial evaluation of the bids submitted by interested parties. These bids were opened in front of all the parties and evaluation results were duly publicized. The technical evaluation results clearly detail the scores which each of the entities obtained along different evaluation parameters. The relevant link is placed herewith-

Following the publication of results and decision to award work to NHDA and SEC, the parties were given the chance to seek clarifications, if any and no such clarifications were received. Therefore, the process of awarding work to NHDA and SEC was done in a manner that was to the satisfaction of all concerned.
ii)  Contractors/Suppliers associated with Phase-IV – Both NHDA and SEC published notices for selecting contractors/suppliers to be associated with Phase-IV of Indian Housing Project. The relevant link on NHDA website is as below  The said notice details out the evaluation parameters in depth. Selection of such contractors/suppliers shall be carried out strictly on the basis of documents submitted by the participating entities. The said process will involve the High Commission of India as well.
iii) Current status – As is true with all development projects implemented by Government of India in Sri Lanka, needs of the people and priorities of the Government of Sri Lanka are at its very heart. Driven by this philosophy, certain aspects of a project like beneficiaries, site selection etc are decided by the Sri Lankan authorities. In case of Phase-IV of Indian Housing Project, both Governments have mutually agreed on eligibility criteria for beneficiaries. As on date, High Commission of India has not received the list of beneficiaries from Sri Lankan authorities. Further, High Commission of India is aided by the Implementing Agencies to ensure that the list of beneficiaries meet the prescribed eligibility conditions.
In closing, I would like to mention that India’s overall development portfolio in Sri Lanka stands at close to USD 5 billion with USD 600 million being in grants alone.  Projects under the bilateral development cooperation partnership are people-centric in nature and India has touched upon all aspects of daily lives such as education, health, livelihood development, housing, among others. Transparency is a central principle which we strictly adhere to in the execution of projects in Sri Lanka.

‘Exposes’ with sensational and misleading titles does not reflect the spirit of India’s multi-dimensional engagement with Sri Lanka, while also creating a biased impression about India and the projects executed by us for the people of Sri Lanka.  You are, therefore, requested to kindly capture the specific points outlined in this letter and carry a clarifications/ rejoinder in the next daily edition of Daily Mirror so as to suitably inform its readers of the actual state of play with respect to Phase IV of Indian Housing Project.

Reporter’s Note –
The Daily Mirror wishes to state that the newspaper at any point did not accuse or level allegations against the Indian Government or the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka for their involvement in any scams in the Indian Grant housing project for the plantation community, but only highlighted how a powerful trade union is attempting to get the Estate Superintendents to include names of their trade union members as beneficiaries.
Although the High Commission in its statement claims that the Daily Mirror has given a ‘sensational and misleading title’ to the article, the Daily Mirror wishes to state that this newspaper at any instance did not mislead our valued readers by giving wrong information but highlighted the factual details.