Govt. may review MoUs with foreign firm

On hold: Two public entities had signed an MoU with the company to modernise the State’s fishing fleet .   | Photo Credit: H. VIBHU

The government on Sunday reportedly decided to review the proposal to allow a U.S. based fishing firm to build trawlers for deep-sea fishing off the coast of Kerala.

Two public entities had signed a memorandum of understanding with the company to modernise the State's ageing fishing fleet to harvest the deep sea more.

The Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation and Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation had struck the contract with the firm at a State-sponsored global investor's meet titled ASCENT.

They struck a preliminary agreement to build, launch and operate a large fleet of deep-sea trawlers backed by mother ships, modern harbours and marine product processing centres. The corporations had hoped to create 25,000 new jobs in the fisheries sector.

Consequently, the firm's representatives met several Ministers to get Cabinet clearance for the project.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala let out details of the MoUs. He accused the government of kowtowing to the interest of foreign trawling conglomerates. He accused the administration of imperilling the livelihood of traditional fishers.

Consequently, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan ordered a full retrospect of the events that led to the inking of the MoUs and their subsequent "leak" to the Opposition.

By one account, the government found the agreements were legally and politically untenable. They ran against the grain of the State's fisheries policy, it reportedly felt.

The State must urgently replace its rusty fishing fleet with modern craft capable of operating in deep waters and preserving the catch weeks at a stretch. It also wanted to reduce overfishing in littoral waters.

The rider to the policy was the government would only allow traditional fishers to operate or own the new boats. Only traditional fishers would receive boat permits. The State signatories to the MoU appeared to have missed the critical proviso. The political executive reportedly felt their "overlook" had precipitated an avoidable controversy in the election season.

Moreover, the nascent firm lacked the expertise or financial capacity to build a deep-sea fishing fleet. Its seed money was less than ₹10 lakh. The government saw a political plot to tarnish its image and cause disaffection among fishers with the ruling front. It has reached out to coastal community leaders to prevent a possible political fall out.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 10:42:41 PM |

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