A day after the Kerala government cancelled the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) and a US-based company, leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala has demanded a judicial probe into the controversy. The Congress leader had accused the state government of engaging in large-scale corruption by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with US-based EMCC International. for fisheries projects in the state, which now stands cancelled.
The MoU with KSINC, a public sector undertaking, was signed in February 2021. EMCC International said it will invest Rs 5,324 crore to build 400 deep sea fishing trawlers, new harbours, port development activities and fishermen welfare, among others. However, Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the project with the US firm will largely affect the stateâ€™s fishers.
Cancelling the MoU, the state government ordered Additional Chief Secretary TK Jose to probe into the allegations made by the Opposition Leader. But Chennithala said that only a judicial probe would suffice. â€œIt makes no sense as two state ministers and the Chief Minister are the prime culprits and hence only a judicial probe will reveal everything," said Chennithala.
The discussions over this project first began in 2018 with Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma reportedly held discussions with the company when she went on a visit to the US, he said.
â€œThe first move came when the state fisheries policy was tweaked in 2018 and included a clause that deep sea fishing will be promoted and the traditional fishermen would be used for it. This (amendment) was done intentionally, Then came the two meetings in which Pinarayi Vijayan met these company officials, which he is yet to admit. Both Fisheries Minister Mercykutty and Industries Minister Jayarajan were caught on the wrong foot after they first denied meeting anyone and then it was proved wrong," Chennithala alleged.
He also claimed that the project was aimed at cheating hapless fisherfolk. â€œWe will provide our full support to the coastal 'hartal' called by various organisations on Saturday against this dubious project. We will also meet the fisherfolk and explain to them about this project (which now stands cancelled)," added Chennithala.
Meanwhile, the Kerala CM has earlier reacted to the allegations, stating that the state government and any of its department had not signed the MoU and when public sector undertakings like KSINC does, it will come for consideration to the government only later.
"We will continue with our fisheries policy drafted in 2019 to encourage the fishermen in the state to become the owners of deep sea fishing vessels. No foreign company or Indian corporate will be allowed to engage in deep sea fishing along the Kerala coast," the CM had said on Saturday.
(With inputs from IANS)