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Company retracting AI surveillance project makes grave accusations, raising concerns

New details have emerged about the controversial Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based surveillance project of the Kerala Government, which has faced scrutiny over graft and high project costs. James Palamuttem, the Chairman of Lyte Master Lighting India, the second firm to withdraw from the project, said in a letter to the state’s Principal Secretary (Industries) that commission was demanded at the government level to be part of the project. Lyte Master later came to know that instead of civil works and installation, Presadio Technologies was engaged only in coordination regarding the project. ‘We learnt about the commission to be paid to government officials during discussions with Ramjith, the Managing Director of Presadio Technologies, which was supposed to carry out the civil work and installation of equipment,’ said James. ‘Ramjith indicated that the project was crucial to ensure a victory for the government in the upcoming Assembly elections in 2021,’ he added.


Lyte Master was offered a 40% share of the profit from the Rs 151.23-crore project, while Presadio would take the remaining 60%. At this stage, the banks which had offered credit to Lyte Master to implement the project advised the company to withdraw from the deal as it lacked transparency. By this time, Lyte Master had spent Rs 85 lakh for the project, including Rs 20 lakh given to Presadio. ‘After disassociating from the camera deal, we could not function in Kerala, and Lyte Master’s office in Thiruvananthapuram was shut,’ said James.


The role of the Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation (Keltron) has also come under scrutiny as it outsourced the work to seven private companies violating norms. The Motor Vehicles Department had entrusted the project to Keltron, which in turn, passed it on to Bengaluru-based company called SRIT. SRIT, which lacked the technical expertise to take part in the tender, co-opted Trois Infotech and Mediatronix. The tender that was won in this way was later subcontracted to Presadio Technologies. When the Al-Hind Group of Kozhikode withdrew from the project, Presadio joined hands with Lyte Master of Thiruvananthapuram and eventually decided to work with e-Centric Solutions when the second company also withdrew.


James did not reveal the political involvement in the deal, stating: ‘There have been threats after these disclosures.’ The project is formally known as the Safe Kerala Project.


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