Thiruvananthapuram: The opposition UDF in Kerala has escalated the corruption charges against the ruling LDF government over a deep-sea fishing pact concluded with a US firm.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala on Saturday came out with a picture showing a meeting between the state's Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty and the representatives of EMCC International regarding a proposed project to hand over to it deep-sea fishing off the state's coast.
However, Mercykutty denied the allegations over corruption in the agreement with the EMCC and said that she has not compromised on the state policy on fishing and vessel manufacturing.
She said Chennithala has lost his bearings; hence he came out with 'absurd' claims about the project on Friday.
"On Friday, both Mercykutty and the state's Industries Minister E P Jayarajan replied that they are not aware of any such company. Now I have released the picture of Mercykutty holding discussions. I will be releasing two more documents which suggest that a four-acre plot was handed over to the US firm," the Leader of the Opposition stated.
Later in the day, Mercykutty told media that the US company's representatives had met her at her office. “However, we have not compromised on the policies on fishing and vessel manufacturing,” she said, while admitting that certain officials might have had some vested interests. “But it won't be encouraged,” she said.
Chennithala said the precious fisheries wealth of Kerala has been handed over on a platter to an US firm, EMCC, which has operations in India.
"The present Left government has cheated the hapless fisher folk who eke out their living by engaging in fishing. If we hadn't found out this, everything would have been given to this US firm. This would not have happened without the knowledge of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) has been a key player in this project and none should forget its Chairman Tom Jose, who was also the former Chief Secretary," he said.
"Since I came up with this disclosures all the details of this project have disappeared from the website of the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation and KSINC. Vijayan should break his silence as he knows everything. We demand that this project be cancelled and the land given to this company be taken back," added Chennithala.
Chennithala has also released a copy of an MoU that was inked last year between the Kerala government and EMCC International India Pvt Ltd for the project which aims at fisheries research & development as well as the upgradation and promotion of the deep-sea fishing sector in Kerala with an outlay of Rs 5,000 crore.
The project also envisages the building of 400 trawlers and five mother ships which will be used for fishing in the seas off the Kerala coast.
Meanwhile, various groups who are engaged in the fisheries sector are meeting at a few places on Saturday to decide the future course of action as they fear their livelihood will be affected.