Congress to mobilise fisherfolk against LDF

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, along with Congress leaders, stages a day-long protest at Poonthura in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: S. MAHINSHA

The Congress on Thursday sought to make political capital out of the “growing mistrust” in the fishing community about the government’s exploratory agreements with a U.S.-based firm to trawl the deep-seas off Kerala.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala staged a day-long sit-in-protest at Poonthura to mobilise the coastal community’s opinion against the LDF and cement the party’s standing among fishers.

Mr. Chennithala flourished a freshly caught tuna and said foreign trawlers would soon rob fishers of the ocean’s bounty. A fleet of fishing trawlers would invade their traditional fishing grounds if the LDF came back to power.

‘In abeyance’

The LDF had merely kept in abeyance the proposal to allow a U.S. company to build trawlers in domestic shipyards to plunder the deep seas, he said.

The company planned to recruit local fishers to crew the vessels to circumvent the ban on foreign trawlers, Mr. Chennithala said and added that the government had conspired to facilitate the false flag operation.

The Congress expose had forced the government to walk back from the accords. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty Amma and Industries Minister E.P. Jayarajan were the prime movers behind the surreptitiously signed secret pact with the U.S. firm. The political executive owed the fishers an explanation. It had tried to shrug off responsibility by scapegoating officials, he said.

Church stand

The Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Conference and the Latin Catholic Diocese, Thiruvananthapuram, had slammed the government for inking the agreements without consulting the fishing community. They said the contracts had caused a deep sense of insecurity among the fisherfolk.

Consequently, the government cancelled the ₹5000 crore “exploratory agreement” Kerala State Industrial Corporation (KSIDC) had struck with EMCC International to build a network of modern fishing harbours linked to an industrial scale marine product processing centre in Alappuzha.

Earlier, the government had invalidated the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation’s ₹2,900 crore prefatory agreement with the same company to build and operate a deep-sea trawling fleet to harvest the marine wealth off the coast of Kerala.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had accompanied seafaring fishers on a short trawling expedition off the coast of Kollam on Wednesday to draw national attention to the controversial agreements. He also spend two hours listening to their woes.

KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran inaugurated the sit-in. AICC general secretary Tariq Anwar attended the valedictory meeting.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 6:15:06 PM |

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