After having tied itself in knot after knot on the controversial deep sea fishing project, the LDF government was forced to announce cancellation of the MoU entered into between a state government entity and the American company EMCC.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who until the last moment defended the Kerala government in the controversy, saying it has nothing to do with the deal, on Sunday ordered cancellation of all the agreements related to the deal, including allocation of four acre land for the local company that was supposed to implement the project.
The volte face was forced by opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala’s release of further evidence of the involvement of both the CM and his colleagues — fisheries minister Mercykuttyamma and industries minister EP Jayarajan — in the negotiation and finalisation of the proposal.
During a press meet on Saturday, Pinarayi Vijayan had flatly denied that there was any MoU signed between the company and any government department or any public sector entity for the deep sea fishing project, which ran counter to the provisions of the state’s fisheries policy against deep sea fishing by trawlers.
The fisheries minister went to the extent of alleging the controversy is the result of a conspiracy between Ramesh Chennithala and the representatives of the company as the opposition leader produced documents signed in the deal, along with photographs of the minister meeting the company officials.
It was further alleged the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation managing director was once the private secretary of Ramesh Chennithala when he was a minister.
Further non-controvertible evidence came when the CEO of the company concerned disclosed he, along with his officials, had a meeting with Vijayan himself at his Cliff House residence, accompanied by the fisheries minister.
Ramesh Chennithala fired further shots in the affair when he released to the media the MoU signed with the company at an investment meet held in Kochi last year and the records relating to the allotment of land by Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation for a project for the manufacture of trawlers to be deployed for deep sea fishing. The land was also to be utilised to create processing facilities for the catch by the trawlers.
Vijayan also announced a probe against the conduct of the Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation in connection with the deal.
The decisive action by the CM also comes in the wake of a move by UDF and Congress to use the violation of the norms against deep sea fishing as an explosive issue among the coastal fishing community.
Congress even planned a tour of the coastal area by Rahul Gandhi, where the issue was to be exploited to create discontent among the fishing community.