The Kerala government has reportedly cancelled the Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with EMCC India International allegedly concerning deep-sea fishing. The order comes from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, following widespread protests against the deal reportedly allowing deep-sea fishing in the state.
However, the company’s deal with the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation for allocation of land at the latter’s Mega Food Park still stands, which is suspect according to experts. Speaking to a leading Malayalam channel, EMCC India President Shiju Varghese explained while they had communicated regarding the project and its protocol, they were never informed by any government officials that their plan did not agree with the Fisheries policy of the state.
The cancelled deal worth Rs 2,950 Crore was signed between KSINC MD N Prasanth and Shiju Varghese. Moreover, Pinarayi Vijayan has also asked Additional Chief Secretary TK Jose to probe into the circumstances that led to the deal. The CM’s office informed that the deal was cancelled since it went against the policies of the state government.
On Sunday’s press conference, Chennithala furnished documents of the four-acre land the government allegedly allotted to the company for the project. The opposition leader also released the MoU signed between the Kerala government and the American company. However, the government had denied that the deal had been signed by officers and they are not responsible for the same. This calls into question two things. Firstly, why wasn’t the government aware of Rs 5,000 Crore deal signed between “officers” and corporates? Secondly, how can the government be irresponsible enough to allow “officers” to make deals that go against the policies of the state government?
Earlier, Fisheries Minister Mercykutty Amma and Industries Minister EP Jayarajan had denied knowledge of the deal, as well as meeting with EMCC India officials after Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala had levelled allegations against them. However, the Congress leader had produced documents relating to the deal signed by the Kerala government following the ASCEND 2020 Investors’ Meet, a photograph of Mercykutty Amma meeting with EMCC officials and evidence addressing the allotment of four acres to the company at the KSIDC’s Mega Food Park.
Following this, she claimed that she might have met them as part of meeting with Malayalis at a UN event in New York in 2018, and talked with them while they were in Kerala. While Mercykutty Amma added that “talking doesn’t mean agreement”, EMCC India Vice President Jose claimed that they had a preliminary discussion with the Fisheries Minister about the deep-sea fishing project in New York, but added that there hasn’t been an official discussion on the matter. However, according to EMCC’s letter to EP Jayarajan, the Kerala government has signed a Rs 5,000 Crore MoU with the company for deep-sea fishing during the ASCEND 2020. It also includes a reference to the amended Kerala Government Fisheries Policy 2019.
According to Ramesh Chennithala, the sequence of events is suspect. The minister meets with a company interested in deep-sea fishing in April 2018, and in the next year, a new Fisheries policy is released promoting boats for deep-sea fishing. Meanwhile, Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation MD N Prasanth signed an MoU cum Work order with EMCC India worth Rs 2,950 Crore for providing technical assistance for the US Company to build trawlers in Kerala.
“The larger project is a result of the agreement between EMCC and the Government of Kerala made during the ‘Ascend 2020’ investors meet held earlier by the State Government. The project will include building deep-sea fishing trawlers and port development activities among others. EMCC plans to build 400 trawlers in Kerala with the help of KSINC,” says a press release issued by the KSINC this month. N Prasanth said that this is the biggest manufacturing work order in the history of KSINC.