The CPIM led Kerala government has got into a huge political controversy prior to the impending assembly election scheduled to happen within the next two months. The news about the Kerala government inking an MOU with an American company for deep-sea fishing has challenged the government’s own integrity. Kerala government and the ruling CPIM had been at the forefront of opposing the new Farm bills. Here, the state government had handed over the monopoly for deep-sea fishing to an American firm. Later, the MoU is cancelled by the government under political pressure.
On February 28, 2020, the Kerala Industrial Development Corporation (KIDC), an investment promotion agency under the Industries Department, signed an MoU with EMCC International India Private Limited, the Indian subsidiary of New York-based EMCC Global Consortium LCC. The firm had stated that the total outlay of the project was Rs 5,000 crore. That deal was signed 48 days after KSIDC organised a global investors’ meet, ASCEND-2020, in Kochi.
As a sequel to the MoU EMCC had inked with KSIDC in 2020, Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation (KSINC), a public sector entity under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, on February 2, 2021, signed a new agreement with the same US-based firm for manufacturing 400 deep-sea trawlers and related activities at a cost of Rs 2,950 crore. The government had officially announced this agreement, in which KSINC was expected to give infrastructure facilities to EMCC for manufacturing deep-sea vessels.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Industries Minister E P Jayarajan and Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma refused to accept that they met EMCC executives and claimed that no such MoU existed. But EMCC disclosed that they had met the Chief Minister in his official residence in August 2019. The government had denied the original MoU of 2020 and the subsequent one in which KSINC is involved. Vijayan claimed he was not aware of the Rs 2,950-crore deal by KSINC, an entity which is under him and which has former chief secretary Tom Jose as its chairman.
Consultations were held at multiple levels for this project and the state government denying all those is itself a testimony of its wrongdoings. But the ministers lying to the public exposes the hypocrisy of the Communist Party who are opposing the Modi government for bringing bills that are beneficial to the farmers. This project was against the very fisheries policy of the state government. The fisheries policy of the CPI (M) government, brought in 2018, had opposed allowing foreign and native corporate vessels along the state’s coast.
The critics allege that any such project would lead to monopolisation of the state fisheries sector and the state government was trying to sell Kerala’s marine wealth to the US firm. Many organisations have called for a coastal hartal on February 27.