Barely three weeks after a state government undertaking signed an MoU with an American firm for manufacturing of deep-sea fishing trawlers and related developments, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday said that the deal was without the government’s knowledge.
Vijayan and the government distanced themselves from the Rs 2950-crore project, saying that the LDF’s policy is against allowing corporates in deep-sea fishing, as that would hurt the interest of traditional fishermen and is against the state government’s fisheries policy.
Referring to the deal, Vijayan said, “The government was not aware of it. There is something mysterious about it. The KSINC managing director has not informed the government about it.”
Vijayan also said that the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation’s (KSINC) MD – N Prasanth – had been the “private secretary to Ramesh Chennithala when he was home minister (under the previous Congress-led UDF government in the state).”
On Friday, Chennithala, the Leader of Opposition, had alleged that the CPI(M)-led LDF government has allowed foreign firms for deep-sea trawling, keeping the Cabinet and the stakeholders in the dark.
The MoU was signed between KSINC and US-based EMCC International. It came as a sequel to an agreement signed by the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) and the American firm in a global investors’ meet held in Kochi early last year,.
As the allegation raised alarm in the fisheries sector, various organisations have called for a hartal in the coastal regions on February 27 in protest. They said the move would affect livelihood of lakhs of traditional fishermen.
The KSINC, a state government entity, had signed the deal with EMCC International on February 2 and had subsequently issued an official communication. The KSINC, led by former state chief secretary Tom Jose as chairman, stated that the deal is mainly to manufacture 400 deep-sea fishing trawlers.
According to the Corporation, EMCC would manufacture the trawlers and KSINC would provide the infrastructure, and that these trawlers would be deployed among fishermen. Besides, fishing harbours would also be developed and the EMCC would start processing units in large numbers, the statement said.
At the investors’ meet organised by KSIDC, EMCC had suggested a massive project of Rs 5,000 crore for development of the fisheries sector in Kerala.
With the issue looking to snowball into a controversy in the run-up to this summer’s Assembly polls, the Chief Minister on Saturday said, “There won’t be any action that would affect the fishermen community. The Opposition should not think that it can turn the coastal people against the government by spreading canards. We had stated that our policy is to exert pressure on the Centre against allowing foreign vessels for deep sea fishing.”
He accused the Congress of having opened deep-sea fishing to foreign corporates.
Vijayan also said the LDF would not backtrack from its fisheries policy, which he maintained is against allowing foreign and domestic corporates on Kerala coast.
The Opposition should not have delusion that they can create a smokescreen of allegations and make electoral gains by misleading the people, he said.
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