THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan on Tuesday came up with more startling revelations that the state government had inked a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. firm EMCC International India Pvt Ltd. for a ₹2,950-crore project for deep sea fishing even after it received a reply from the Centre that the US company was not trustworthy.
The Indian consulate in the US has informed the Centre that the company was not trustworthy as it has only virtual address of a rental building there and cannot be termed as a company. The Indian consulate had sent a communication to the Centre on October 21, 2019 explaining the details of the company.
Subsequently, the information was passed on to the Kerala government in reply to a letter of the Fisheries department secretary KR Jyothilal who sought the details of the company. But despite the adverse report, the state government had inked a deal with the US firm at the investors meet held in February 2020, around four months after the communication of the Centre, said Muraleedharan. The deal was made despite the state government knowing that it was a company bearing only a registration number and a virtual address.
The Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) inked the deal with the US company at Ascent 2020 investment meet and it involved the construction of trawlers worth Rs 400 crore by the firm in tandem with KSINC. Later, as the issue snowballed into a big controversy, the state government extricated itself from the row by cancelling the deal after announcing a probe into it.
Chennithala demands judicial probe
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala has sought a judicial probe into the deep sea fishing deal signed between US firm EMCC Intl India Pvt Ltd and the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation. The government should first cancel the agreement on land allotted at Pallipuram in Alappuzha, he said, claiming that only a part of the MoU was cancelled by the state government on Monday.
He also expressed dissatisfaction over the state government's decision to entrust Additional Chief Secretary (Home) T K Jose to investigate into the deal. Before a judicial probe is announced, the government should cancel the land deal. The UDF has also decided to rally behind the fisherfolk’s protest on Saturday.
For the fifth consecutive day, Chennithala raised the controversy on the deep sea fishing row. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is the main protagonist in the whole episode while industries minister EP Jayarajan helped him. The claims made by Pinarayi, Jayarajan and fisheries minister J Mercy Kutty Amma on the agreement are totally false, he said.
"The MoU signed on February 28, 2020 at ASCEND, Kochi is still valid. I wish to reiterate that the fisheries minister had held talks with EMCC International Private India Ltd in New York during April 2018. It was as per the advice of the Chief Minister that the US firm submitted a detailed concept note which the company owner himself has said. The LDF Government had resorted to loot the fishermen through deliberate steps and there is no action against fisheries policy being amended", said Chennithala.
Unleashing a tirade against the LDF government, Chennithala urged that all agreements signed for deep sea fishing should be cancelled.
Referring to SNC Lavalin case being postponed to April 6 as per the request of the CBI, Chennithala said if someone alleges an unholy nexus between the CPM and the BJP, they cannot be blamed. Chennithala also informed that bilateral talks with the UDF allies were partially completed.
Church says Kerala govt creating smokescreen
Even as the state government has cancelled a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the state-owned Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) with the US-based EMCC International for deep-sea fishing, the Latin Catholic Church has come out with sharp criticism of the deal as it could affect the livelihood of fishermen in the state.
In a statement, the Church said that the government's cancellation of an agreement on the deal was to create a smokescreen before the public. "Cancelling one agreement is to fool the people. We want all the agreements to be cancelled. With the government's action, it has been proved that the Chief Minister and the Fisheries Minister had told lies. Hence the government should cancel all the agreements with the American firm and should protect the interests of fishermen," the statement from the Church said.