Screenshots of WhatsApp chats reportedly between KSINC Managing Director N Prasanth and Dhinesh Bhaskar, Additional Private Secretary of the CM, were telecast by media.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a white shirt wearing a mask that has slipped down to his chin speaking into a micFile Photo
news Controversy Thursday, March 25, 2021 - 20:11

Days before the Kerala Assembly elections, the controversies regarding the deep-sea fishing contract which had put CPI(M) led Left Democratic Front government in a fix, has surfaced again. WhatApp chats that showed that the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office was informed about a possible Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US based EMCC, which later got cancelled, has surfaced in the media. Incidentally, CM Pinarayi had earlier said that the government was not aware about the contract that was signed by Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation Limited (KSIDC) and Kerala Shipping Inland Navigation Corporation Limited (KSINC).

The controversy broke out in February this year with Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala stating that the government had entered into a contract with a US based company to build trawlers for deep-sea fishing. The controversy sparked outrage from fishing communities and opposition parties, following which Kerala CM came out stating that the government was not aware about the MoUs signed by KSINC and KSIDC. With opposition Congress starting indefinite protest and outrage growing, the state government cancelled the MoU.

However, screenshots of WhatsApp chats reportedly between KSINC Managing Director N Prasanth and Dhinesh Bhaskar, Additional Private Secretary of CM Pinarayi Vijayan, states that N Prasanth had informed the latter about the agreement, before it was signed.

The WhatsApp chat provided under Right to Information Act, shown to be dated February 1 has Prasanth saying, “Tmrw we might sign a MoU and get a major work order from a USA based company directly to KSINC. Rs 1,250 worth work as first tranche. Primarily focusing on fisheries and trawlers. Negotiations on. If things work out positively please update the CM as this is a big deal.”

Another message says ‘Confirmed. At 12 noon we are signing MoU…” To this, the receiver, replies ‘congrats’.

Another screenshot shows reportedly N Prasanth texting Additional Chief Secretary TK Jose, who is also in charge of inland navigation, that, “Sir..MoU and work order for Rs 2,950 Cr issued by American company investing in fisheries sector in favour of KSINC today.” To this reportedly TK Jose, replies to give good publicity. It is however unclear if there was any other official communication between the officers.

When the controversy broke out Kerala CM had stated, “Neither the state government nor any of its departments have not signed any MoU in this regard. KSINC is a public sector undertaking. It is normal for such undertakings to sign MoUs in any conferences or investment meets.”  

Notably, after the controversy broke it, TK Jose, who was reportedly aware about the contract, was given the charge to conduct an inquiry to find how the contract was signed.

Meanwhile, on Thursday responding to the documents that were aired in the media, CM Pinarayi brushed aside it by saying that it is natural for any officer to respond to a message and that's all that happened.

"The release of these documents all points out to a conspiracy behind this. A 'big' officer has played a role in it. Everything will be revealed in the probe," said Pinarayi Vijayan and expressed his displeasure about the question being raised.

Inputs IANS

Read: The controversy over Kerala’s deep sea fishing contract with US firm

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