THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The road blockade by the fishermen community to protest against the Vizhinjam port construction threw the traffic movement out of gear in Thiruvananthapuram city on Monday and 70 passengers missed their flights from the airport.
As the protestors blocked the roads connecting the airport at Chackai and Enchakkal, both domestic and international passengers could not reach the terminals on time. According to a spokesperson at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, four passengers who were to board international flights and 66 others scheduled to travel on domestic flights missed the trips due to the blockade.
They missed four IndiGo flights and one Vistara flight to Bengalauru, New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, and Kannur. Besides, the Thiruvananthapuram-Kannur IndiGo flight was delayed by one hour and 10 minutes after the pilot failed to reach the airport on time due to the protest.
Airport officials said the police stood as mute spectators and literally did nothing to divert the route for air passengers. "Normally, in similar situations, the city police make sure that airport passengers are not hit, but they did nothing on Monday," the spokesperson said.
Other commuters blamed the police for not effectively diverting the traffic though the protesters had announced the blockade in advance. The people going to the airport to catch flights, schools, colleges and offices suffered the most due to the blockade between 8.30 am and 3 pm.
The protestors led by the Latin Church put up blockades at Attingal, Chackai, Thiruvallom, Uchakada and Poovar and Station Kadavu. A ban on the protest by the district collector did not deter the protestors from holding meetings at Vizhinjam junction and Mulloor.
Large groups of protestors came with boats and fishing nets to block all locations including the service roads to ensure total blockade. Later, they took out a protest march towards the secretariat, blocking MG Road around noon. The protestors organised an art and cultural meet in front of the secretariat on Monday.
State-wide protest tomorrow
Women protestors led the blockade at many locations. They blamed the government for rendering them homeless as the authorities had turned a blind eye to the coastal erosion.
Thiruvananthapuram Latin archdiocese vicar-general and general convenor of the protest Eugine H Pereira said it was a token protest. He said a state-wide protest will be organised with the support of various organisations on Wednesday to highlight the issues.
The police made diversions to ease traffic flow. The vehicles to the airport were diverted through Canal Road near Karikkakom temple. People coming to Thiruvananthapuram through National Highway were diverted from Alamcode, Nagaruru, Kilimanoor and Venjarammoodu. However, college buses and passengers heading for the airport got stucks in the blockade at Chackai. The students complained that they would miss the Kerala University second-semester examination to be held in the afternoon.
Those going to Kollam were diverted from Vetturoad or Mangalapuram to reach MC Road. Those coming to the city via Chackai were diverted from Venpalavattom. Those stuck at Station Kadavu were diverted through Menamkulam. The vehicles coming from Vizhinjam side were diverted through Kumarichanda.
The Church started the protest demanding the government to stop port construction and study its ecological impact by involving coastal people, fair compensation and rehabilitation for loss of property and houses, compensation for fishermen who lost work days due to adverse weather warnings, ensuring smooth navigation at Muthalapozhi harbour, providing subsidised kerosene as done in Tamil Nadu, rent-free accommodation for people who lost houses and rehabilitation of families affected by sea erosion.
The protest began in front of the port site at Mulloor in Vizhinjam on August 16.