Now, Kerala’s Communist Government Caught In A Controversy Over Selection Of Firm To Develop Liquor Sales App

by M R Subramani - May 27, 2020 12:19 PM +05:30 IST
Now, Kerala’s Communist Government Caught In A Controversy Over Selection Of Firm To Develop Liquor Sales App Online liquor application (Representative Image) 
  • Opposition Congress alleges that the firm developing the app, Fair Code, is owned by a CPM supporter, and now stands to make huge money, despite PSUs being capable of designing the app.

Kerala’s Left Democratic Front (LDF) government has now landed in a controversy over the selection of a startup company to develop an app for liquor sales in the state.

The controversy comes just days after the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM)-led government in the state got over another row over maintaining data of novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) suspects by a US firm called Sprinklr.

In the case of Sprinklr, the Pinarayi Vijayan government had to end the contract and tell the Kerala High Court that all data and backups collected by the US firm would be deleted.

The data would now be maintained in the government-owned cloud space in Amazon web services.

The latest controversy over the liquor sales app, named ‘Bev Q’, has cropped up after the Opposition, led by the Congress, alleged that the project to develop the mobile app is shrouded in mystery and it should be cancelled.

Opposition and senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged large-scale corruption in the mobile app deal and demanded that the Vijayan government publish all details regarding the selection of the Kochi-based startup firm Fair Code Technologies Private Limited.

Fair Code has developed the app and on Tuesday (26 May), Kerala got the security clearance from Google to list the app on Play Store.

In particular, Chennithala demanded details on the cost-sharing between Fair Code and BEVCO (Kerala Beverages Corporation).

Pointing out that Fair Code, and not BEVCO, will be handling the electronic queue on the app, the Congress leader said the app developer will get 50 paise for every token generated to purchase liquor.

BEVCO has, however, denied the allegations saying Fair Code will not walk away with the entire amount it collects for token sales.

The Corporation said that the money would go towards meeting expenses on monthly fee to the app developer, rent for Amazon cloud space owned by the state government that hosts the virtual queue system, payment to telecom firms for SMS text messages, besides its other miscellaneous expenses.

Bevco has claimed that it has to pay money to various agencies in advance to ensure the smooth functioning of the app and its related system.

Times of India reported that Chennithala has written to Kerala Excise and Labour Minister T P Ramakrishnan questioning why the project to develop the app was given to a private firm when several government institutions were available for the purpose.

He alleged in his letter that Fair Code was owned by a CPM supporter.

Chennithala said any public sector firm could have developed the app had it been given Rs 10 lakh and added that the app company would get to earn Rs 2 crore every month from the sales.

The Opposition leader also said that no timeframe has been given on how long the app will be used for liquor sales.

Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President Mullappally Ramachandran alleged that 27 companies had bid for the tender to develop the app, but Chief Minister Vijayan and Ramakrishnan showed personal interest in selecting Fair Code.

Bev Q is now being tested by the Kerala government to ensure that the app functions without any problem once liquor sales resume in the state.

Liquor sales in Kerala have been suspended since 25 March when the Centre announced a country-wide lockdown to curb the spread of novel Coronavirus.

They will likely resume sometime later this week.

Kerala will allow liquor to be sold by BEVCO outlets and private bar counters on a takeaway basis.

It has also increased the prices of liquor between 10 and 35 per cent.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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