THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as the state’s southern coast is reeling under unprecendented violence, one question lingers — is the state government serious about the Vizhinjam seaport project?
All signs point to no. Had it been, the government would have clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC in the entire area, as it did in Puthuvype near Kochi, to quell the unrest, many feel.
Even the Kerala High Court asked the government’s counsel why it had not done so. Attendance, or lack of it, of dignitaries in the expert summit organised by the state-run Vizhinjam International Seaport Ltd on Tuesday also point to the possibility of the government losing enthusiasm in the project. Besides Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who was unwell, three other ministers gave the event a miss.
The government’s lukewarm response to the mega summit, close on the heels of the violent protests that left several, including policemen, injured has raised questions on its seriousness.
Apparently, Sunday’s violent protests have created a loss of trust between the government and the agitators.
Political reasons too have played a major role in the government’s decision to go slow on the issue. But it’s not just the government that has seemingly lost interest.
Noticeably, Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, a strong advocate for the Rs 7,500-crore project, too didn’t turn up for the summit. Tharoor’s office maintained that he was not officially invited.
In the chief minister’s absence, Finance Minister K N Balagopal inaugurated the expert summit. He clarified that the CM gave it a miss as he was nursing a sore throat.
Won’t backtrack from project, will try to negotiate: Fisheries minister
In addition to Mohamed Riyas and G R Anil, Transport Minister Antony Raju, who has been actively involved in mediatory talks with the protestors, was conspicuously absent.
Ports Minister Ahammad Devarkovil said the first ship will dock at the port during Onam, next year. “The port is owned by the government, not the Adani Group. The construction activities are carried out with minimal ecological damage and the coastal erosion is not due to the port,” said the minister.
Meanwhile, Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman said the government would not backtrack from the project. “We have tried our level best to negotiate with the protestors. There is a limit to it. No one who loves the country could object to the port,” he said.
The Latin Church took exception to his remarks. “Abdurahiman has stooped low to call us anti-nationals. He as a fisheries minister is supposed to protect the interest of the fishermen. Instead he speaks on behalf of the Port’s minister,” said Theodacious D’Cruz, a priest and convener of the protest. Meanwhile, the protestors led by the Latin Church observed a day of deceit on the fifth anniversary of the Ockhi disaster. They blamed the government for not keeping the promises given to the families of the Ockhi victims. The Janakeeya Prathirodha Samithi (JPS), a group supporting the port project at Vizhinjam, is also organising a protest march on Wednesday.
In an obvious bid to address the concerns raised by the coastal folk, Shashi Tharoor posted a pinned tweet. “Vizhinjam protest clash: Archbishop Netto prime accused, 50 bishops from Latin archdiocese charged”. Without condoning obstruction or violence, he said “I regret that the delay in finding an amicable solution to our fisherfolk’s genuine grievances has led to this.”