THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Under fire from the Opposition UDF and fishermen community over compromising the interests of Kerala, the government on Monday cancelled the controversial agreement between Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) and US-based EMCC to build 400 trawlers and five mother ships. After denying any involvement of his ministers in the deal for days, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan ordered a probe into the circumstances that led to its signing.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala on Monday came up with fresh evidence to prove the government’s involvement in the deal. He said the company’s upper management had met the CM at his official residence in presence of Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma. The fisher groups have, meanwhile, have called a coastal hartal on February 27, citing apathy towards native fishermen.
EMCC too pushed the government on the back foot, with its president Shiju M Varghese saying the project became a problem for the government after it became a controversy. “We have followed up the work for almost two years. If it was against the state’s policy, the fisheries minister could have objected to it at the first instance,” he said.
Pinarayi, Mercykutty and Industries Minister E P Jayarajan denied any involvement in the deal. However, the firm said its representatives had met Mercykutty in 2018 with the proposal and submitted it during the ASCENT 2020, an investors’ meet organised by the government in January, 2020.
T K Jose to probe allegations
CM Pinarayi Vijayan has directed Additional Chief Secretary T K Jose to probe the allegations raised by Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala. Jose is the head of the inland navigation department and the CM said the deal was signed without the secretary’s knowledge. KSINC MD N Prasanth will face department-level enquiry.
Oppn leader releases more documents
T’Puram: Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala on Monday released more documents on the deal putting the government in a fix. He released the letter written by ex-fisheries principal secretary K R Jyothilal to the external affairs ministry joint secretary seeking the credentials of the US firm EMCC, three months before ASCEND 2020 was held. Chennithala also sought a reply from Minister E P Jayarajan on why he had hidden details of the project from the assembly. , Chennithala maintained that from day one it was keen to hush up the deal. He said that efforts are on to ensure that LDF Government is keen on saving the US monopolist firm.
‘Cancellation admission of guilt’
T’Puram: The government’s decision to scrap the MoU on building 400 trawlers is its admission of guilt, a jubilant Ramesh Chennithala said on Monday. He reiterated that the MoU between EMCC and KSINC reeked of graft. He alleged that the signing of the MoU was known to the CM, fisheries and industries ministers. Chennithala demanded that all agreements should be scrapped, including the allotment of four acres of land at Pallipuram in Alappuzha. “All orders should be cancelled. There is no point in entrusting additional chief secretary (Home) with initiating a probe into the deal.