Ruckus over ro-ro in Kochi corpn council

Civic body may cancel pact with KSINC for operation of vessel

Published - May 06, 2018 12:02 am IST - KOCHI

Police and UDF councillors help Mayor Soumini Jain come out of her office on Saturday.

Police and UDF councillors help Mayor Soumini Jain come out of her office on Saturday.

The Kochi Corporation may cancel the MoU it had inked with the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) for operating the Fort Kochi-Vypeen roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry, following pandemonium at Saturday’s special council meeting.

The police had to intervene and escort Mayor Soumini Jain from the council hall on Saturday night after Opposition councillors blockaded her. She was admitted to Medical Trust Hospital after she complained of physical discomfort, it is learnt.

The Mayor hinted that the MoU might be cancelled if there was further delay on the part of KSINC in commencing the ferry service. KSINC, which was entrusted with the operation of the ro-ro vessel, had suspended the service hours after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated it on April 28, leading to public outcry. It had cited non-availability of trained drivers and the need for some paper work as the reasons, leading to widespread protests.

KSINC has now sought additional time from the District Collector to train its drivers, and the date for resuming service will be announced on May 8. “We will wait till May 9 and seek other options if there is further delay,” Ms Jain told the council.

She further said the corporation would urge the Chief Secretary to conduct a probe into the unilateral suspension of the service by KSINC.

“KSINC has cheated the corporation as the service was cancelled without informing it. The MoU with KSINC clearly states that the agency is responsible for conducting the service from day one. If it had any issue, it should have informed us before the inauguration,” the Mayor added.

On its part, the Opposition sought an independent probe by an outside agency into the stalemate. “The Mayor should stay away from her responsibilities until the probe is over. The corporation has cheated the residents of Kochi. The Mayor misguided the Chief Minister and other officials on the safety documents of the vessels and put the lives of hundreds of people at risk by permitting the service. She should also tender her apology to ferry users as the civic agency’s lethargy resulted in the suspension of the service,” Opposition leader K.J. Antony said.

With the Mayor turning down the Opposition’s request to apologise, councillors, including women, tried to prevent her from leaving the council hall.

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