Bribes force UAE expat to backtrack from Kerala project

A Non-Resident Indian businessmen in the UAE, who has ventured into a drinking water bottling project for the millions of pilgrims to the Shabarimala temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala, has decided to backtrack from the project because he could not pay a huge bribe demanded by a senior official and a senior engineer in the Travancore Devaswom Board which administers the temple.

His decision follows recent Indian media reports of his company receiving undue favours from the Travancore Devaswom Board for a 10-year contract to purify and sell water from an adjacent dam.

Sajeev S Nair, managing director, Knack Power LLC, said the company is backtracking from the proposed drinking water project in Shabarimala because two officials demanding a bribe of Rs5 million. He said a senior Devaswom Board official and a sub engineer demanded the bribe and they had been influenced by companies currently supplying water to the devotees. He said he would reveal their names soon.The project has been pending with the temple authorities for the past two years.

The project involved purifying and selling water from the Kunnar dam and the Travancore Devaswom Board had decidied to provide a building of 1,200 sq ft area for installing machinery at its own cost. Knack Power was awaiting permission to market 3,000,000 litres of water a month for 10 years. Devaswom

Board officials have now raised some objections to giving the contract to Sajeev’s company.

 “I am a pious devotee and regularly visit Shabarimala. I realised that some companies are selling drinking water at a very high price. I proposed a cheap drinking water project that would sell a litre of bottled water for five to seven rupees compared to Rs 16 to Rs 30 plus charged currently. A few officials and the mineral water companies currently are working against my project and have placed negative reports about my company and project in the Indian media,” Sajeev said.

Knack Power LLC is a four-year old company in the UAE specialising in water bottling and desalination. Sajeev has been in the UAE for 15 years and has undertaken a few water and desalination projects in Ras al Khaimah.