THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With hardly a week left for the Onam celebrations under the aegis of Tourism Department to start, the beautification and renovation works of Kanakakkunnu Palace premises are nearing completion.
The works are being carried out by Kerala Land Development Corporation (KLDC) jointly with other stakeholders, including PWD and Keltron.
According to KLDC officials, the works would be completed before Onam, setting a deadline for August 25. The statewide Onam celebrations organised by the state government will start on that day.
The beautification project, with a total cost of over Rs 5 crore, is primarily aimed at giving a ‘class look’ to the 18-acre palace premises with the addition of state-of-the art stone steps from the entry point to the palace building. According to the architect of the project, the steps would help visitors reach Nishagandhi and Sooryakanthi open air stages as well as the palace easier. “If you stand at the entry point, you can see the transformation and the changing face of the premises, which are getting an elegant look. We also constructed stone pillars at both sides of the entry point which serve the purpose of ‘royal gates’. If the visitors earlier entered the premises through the two gates at the either side of the premises, now everyone can easily enter through the steps. We also constructed them in a way not to create any strain for the visitors. Moreover, we have made more seating arrangements using granite around the palace and utilised the space by constructing walkways with appropriate width around the palace. Earlier, the public had to walk on the lawn to reach any destination on the premises despite the two tarred roads on either side. Meanwhile, the grass-laying is progressing fast”, Koshy, the architect of the project, told ‘City Express’.
Apart from this ornamentation, the palace premises will be more accessible to the public from now on with the opening of two gates near Nishagandhi and Sooryakanthi open air auditoriums. Unlike in previous years, the commercial stalls and entertainment will be at the entry point near Nishagandhi stage during Onam celebrations.
“The change of the location is aimed at maintaining a hygienic atmosphere and beauty of the portion of the palace premises facing the road. We decided to beautify the entire premises by not axing a single tree. In fact, we want to maintain the lush green and create shades for the visitors. Artificial slopes are also being arranged, which will be an added attraction. The construction of granite seats in front of Nishagandhi auditorium is underway along with some renovation of the path to the stage. The maintenance works of the palace are being carried out directly by PWD. We are hoping to complete the entire works before the deadline”, said Radhakrishnan, sub-contractor of the project.
The work is almost over now and we need only complete the works near K Karunakaran Park and near Sooryakanthi auditorium. Modern toilets are also getting ready. It will take at least four to five days and the entire premises will be open to the public in a week’s time,” said M Laila, Project Engineer, KLDC.
Meanwhile, sources alleged that there were discrepancies over allocating the funds for the project.
“When the project was announced, it was planned with a total cost of Rs 3.05 crore. But now, an additional amount of Rs 2 crore has been granted for the construction citing more developments. Are the authorities ‘insane’ that they didn’t even lay out a financial plan way earlier before the project announcement? If we count the entire beautification projects inside the premises, it won’t cross Rs 3 crore. So, we suspect large-scale financial irregularities. Above all, the lighting system arranged under the aegis of Keltron is not up to the standards and has been installed on the premises in an ‘improper’ manner. Many of the lights are unnecessary. If you step into the palace by using the steps, you will be welcomed by an array of lights of four metres height. In fact, a subtle lighting is only required at this side. Besides, the proposed children’s park and signage boards on the premises are not included in the beautification works,” said a social worker, on condition of anonymity.
Refuting the allegations, project engineer M Laila said that works like the renovation of Nishangandhi auditorium and construction of new toilets were the only requirements that came later and hence more funds were needed to complete the works. “We are able and are confident of completing the works with the funds allocated by the Tourism Department. There is no corruption or irregularity. We are committed to completing the project in the stipulated time and works are progressing in full swing,’’ she said.
An official at Keltron who also preferred anonymity said the allegations were uncalled for and added that they were aimed at tarnishing the image of Keltron.