Addressing the claims of Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma and Industries Minister EP Jayarajan, Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala told the media that the government is lying. He furnished photographs and letters, addressing the meeting between Mercykutty Amma and the American company EMCC in regards to the alleged deep-sea fishing contract.
He released documents, which referred to a meeting between Mercykutty Amma and EMCC International India Pvt Limited (EMMC India) President Shiju Varghese in New York in April 2018. However, initially, the minister had refuted the claims, saying that she was attending a UN event, and hadn’t met with anyone. She was speaking in a news discussion in a leading Malayalam channel. However, when the reporters called the President and Vice President of the company, they claimed that they met and talked with the minister.
Following this, she claimed that she did meet with a few Malayalis at the event, but did not discuss any deals. Among the documents revealed by Ramesh Chennithala was a photograph featuring the Fisheries Minister meeting EMCC India authorities in Kerala. While Mercykutty Amma said that “talking doesn’t mean agreement”, interestingly, the initial claims of the minister were that there was no conversation and she was unaware of any deals.
Meanwhile, reportedly, 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 Global Investor’s Meet. It also includes a reference to the amended Kerala Government Fisheries Policy 2018.
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.
Moreover, it seems that the company had also applied for the allotment of four acres of land in the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation Mega Food Park. The documents reveal that the application was approved in an order dated February 3, 2021. According to the reports, the total estimated cost of the whole project is Rs 5,324.49 Crore.
Minister EP Jayarajan said that all of this was blackmail politics and added that the Opposition Leader might have a part in this deal. Meanwhile, the EMCC Director Shibu Varghese and KSINC reiterated that the deal is only about making trawlers in Kerala, and the company added that there isn’t any corruption behind the project. Mercykutty Amma clarified that deep-sea fishing has been traditionally assigned to the local fisherfolk, and the company stated that they are planning deep-sea fishing only with the agreement of the community members.