RTI enquiry reveals Kerala ministers knew about deals with EMCC India for deep-sea fishing

RTI enquiry reveals Kerala ministers knew about deals with EMCC India for deep-sea fishing

The KSINC deal to make trawlers was only a natural extension of the EMCC-KSIDC deep-sea fishing deal, which also includes the construction of a boatyard

While the EMCC India-Kerala government deals had seemingly died down, recent records show that Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma had been lying. RTI enquires show that the state government had indeed signed a Memorandum of Understanding with EMCC India for deep-sea fishing, which the state government had denied from day one.

Replying to an RTI filed by Veli Varghese — President of the Coastal Area Leaders Forum — the Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation said that they had signed the MoU with EMCC India based on the latter’s MoU with the Kerala government through Kerala State Industries Development Corporation for deep-sea fishing. The two deals were later cancelled by the state government following public outrage.

However, from day one Mercykutty Amma and Industries Minister EP Jayarajan had denied the deals, and told media that it was all fictional. With Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala bringing out evidence to the claims, the two ministers had no choice but to admit to it. Mercykutty later said that she had met with the representatives of EMCC India and had talked with them but didn’t come to an agreement since “deep-sea fishing went against the Fisheries policy of the state”. This RTI reply, however, refutes the minister’s claims, since it clearly states that the government signed the MoU for “deep-sea fishing”.

Moreover, while the state leadership had claimed that KSINC MD Prashanth had been acting on his own when he signed the deal with EMCC India head Shiju Varghese the reply also refutes that claim. The KSINC deal was signed on February 2, 2021, while the KSIDC deal was signed a year back on February 28, 2020, at the ASCEND 2020 event. According to the RTI reply, the KSIDC deal mentions that the procurement of 400 deep-sea trawlers and 5 mother vessels alongside the “construction of a boatyard” were components of the EMCC deep-sea fishing project. This indicated that the KSINC deal wasn’t a standalone project, since it was closely related to the deal with the state government through the KSIDC.

On the other hand, Jayarajan, under whom lies KSIDC, and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, under whom lies KSINC, denied knowledge about the deal and went so far as to claim that such deals did not exist. However, they relied on the legalese to protect themselves. According to the RTI reply, there is no contract as such and only an MoU, but on the other hand, the ministers had refused to acknowledge the existence of the MoU until Ramesh Chennithala revealed the evidence to it. Moreover, following the public outrage, they cancelled the MoU thereby acknowledging their existence and now the RTI reply reveals that the KSINC deal was known to the ministers and the departmental secretaries.

The NationWide