The Kerala government has been accused of trying to sell deep-sea fishing rights to a US-based company. As per reports, the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation, (KSIDC) had signed an MoU with EMCC International Pvt Ltd, a US-based firm, for deep-sea fishing rights off the Kerala coast.
As per reports, on February 28, 2020, the Kerala Industrial Development Corporation (KIDC) had signed an MoU with US-based EMCC for “Fisheries research and development for the up-gradation and promotion of deep-sea fishing in Kerala”. EMCC had stated that the total outlay for the project was Rs 5000 crores. EMCC was to develop 400 deep-sea fishing trawlers, 5 modern vessels with state-of-the-art technology, 14 fishing harbours in Kerala as per Europian standards, 50 seafood processing plants, and aquaculture farms.
As reported by the Indian Express, the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation, a public sector entity under CM Vijayan, had signed a new agreement with the same EMCC firm on February 2, 2021, for the development of 400 deep-sea fishing trawlers.
After the opposition’s protest that the Kerala government led by communists is trying to sell the vast maritime wealth of the state to foreign companies, the Pinarayi Vijayan government woke up and tried to backtrack. As of now, Pinarayi Vijayan’s government is saying that they had no idea about the MoU and the subsequent agreement and is trying to blame it on the officials of KSINC.
RSS leader J Nandakumar has shared copies of the MoU in his Twitter handle, saying that the Kerala government is now claiming that they are against capitalist after their ‘secret’ pact with the US company was exposed in the public.
Kerala Govt had made a secret MoU with US company to sell 'Ocean'. When the secret pact became public, CPM govt cancell it saying they are against capitalist🤣🤣monopolies.— J Nandakumar (@kumarnandaj) February 23, 2021
"When caught red-handed the thief showing his magnanimity by returning the stolen wealth." pic.twitter.com/6YDmijcJH4
Vijayan govt blames officials, tries to wash its hands off the deal
It is notable here that the central government had in 2017 withdrawn the permission given to foreign trawlers for deep-sea fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the country. India’s EEZ extends up to 370 KM (200 nautical miles) from the coastline as per international laws. Illegal fishing by foreign vessels in India’s EEZ is a punishable offence.
In Kerala, the communist government’s own fisheries policies had stated that they are opposed to foreign and Indian corporate vessels in the Kerala coast, projecting that they are doing it to promote local fishermen. However, this deal with EMCC has exposed the communist government.
As per reports, Vijayan has stated, “Neither the state government nor any of its departments have 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. It would come for the consideration of the government only later. A policy decision in this regard would be taken only then,” Vijayan said.
Vijayan further claimed that the officials at KSINC should have brought the so-called MoU to the government’s notice, but they failed to do so.
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala has called it the communist government’s fisheries scam and has demanded a detailed investigation. He alleged that Vijayan’s ministers had met EMCC officials and have been involved in the deal.
Documents revealed by UDF clearly shows that the MoU signed is against the interest of local fishermen. This MoU should be cancelled immediately and the land given to EMCC should be taken back.#FisheriesScam#AishwaryaKeralaYatra— Ramesh Chennithala (@chennithala) February 21, 2021
Speaking to the media, fisheries minister J Mercykutty Amma denied meeting EMCC officials in New York and claimed that the LDF government had formulated its fisheries policy in 2019 and under it, no Indian or foreign corporate entity is allowed to engage in deep-sea trawling.
Attacking the Congress back, Vijayan stated that it was the Congress government under PV Narasimha Rao which had allowed foreign trawlers to engage in deep sea fishing in India’s seawaters.