After being taken to task by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala over a proposed project of handing over deep-sea fishing to a US firm, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan ruled out any dilution in the deep sea fishing policy of the state. He said the interests of the fishing sector would be of prime importance.
“We assure the fishing sector that there will be nothing that will be done which will affect the fishermen and others engaged in fishing. During business meets, various state departments get many proposals and this was one such proposal. Government organisations will look into it, but the final call is taken by the government and hence nothing will be done which will affect the fishing sector,” said Vijayan.
“The opposition is trying to create a wedge between the government and those in the fisheries sector,” said Vijayan.
For the past two days Chennithala has been slamming State Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty for engaging in talks with a US-based firm on a proposed project of handing over deep-sea fishing in the state to the latter. On Saturday he released a picture of the meeting.
He also slammed the role played by State Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan, whose department handed over a four acre piece of land to this US firm at a seafood park in Alappuzha.
“It’s surprising how Chennithala has got all these papers,” said Vijayan.
Vijayan also pointed out that the former secretary to Chennithala, when he was the Home Minister ( 2014-16) was in the fisheries department.
But when mediapersons asked if action will be taken against the official, Vijayan shot back saying, “You want to get such an answer from me.”
“I will not make any statement on this now,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Mercykutty denied any such meeting and said that Chennithala has lost his bearings as he came out with this project on Friday.
“On Friday, both Mercykutty and Jayarajan replied that they are not aware of any such company. Now I have released this picture of Mercykutty having discussions. I will be releasing two more documents which say that a four acre plot of land was handed over to this US firm. If needed I will release the meeting pictures among Mercykutty and those US officials,” the Opposition leader said.
Chennithala said the precious fisheries wealth of Kerala has been handed over on a platter to a US firm — Emcc, which has operations in India.
“The present Left government has cheated the hapless fisherfolk who eke out their living by engaging in fishing. If we hadn’t found out this, everything would have been given to this US firm. I know that this would not have happened without the knowledge of Vijayan. The Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) has been a key player in this project and none should forget its Chairman Tom Jose, who was also the former Chief Secretary,” he said.
“Since I came up with this, what’s baffling is all the details of this project have disappeared from the website of Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation and KSINC. Vijayan should break his silence as he knows everything. We demand that this project be cancelled and the land given to this company be taken back,” added Chennithala.
Chennithala has also released an MoU that was inked last year between the Kerala government and Emcc International India Pvt Ltd for the project,” Fisheries Research & Development for the up-gradation and Promotion of Deep Sea Fishing Industry” in Kerala with an outlay of Rs 5,000 crore.
According to this project what’s envisaged is 400 trawlers and five mother ships which will be fishing in the sea off Kerala.