Kollam: The Kerala government is likely reckless in its conduct as it enters into significant deals with overseas entities. A spate of controversies of late, including the one over the deep-sea fishing pact, suggests the state government takes for granted the scrutiny of the Cabinet or vetting by the law and finance departments.
As the LDF government faces the heat over the MoU with EMCC International for opening up the traditional fishing sector to overseas agencies, it is evident that the deal was concluded without the knowledge of the state agencies including the law department.
It is mandatory to subject all foreign investments to law department's perusal or scrutiny, but this was not complied with in EMCC's case. However, the government claims that the agreements signed by the corporations under various state departments need not be sent for the scrutiny of the law department. It was the Kerala State Inland navigation Corporation (KSINC) that entered into a deal with EMCC for deep-sea trawling off the Kerala coast.
Since the investment in the project is worth crores, the finance department’s inspection was also required.
The permission for deep-sea fishing is granted by the Department of Fisheries, but this too was not likely sought. The failure to hold interdepartmental discussions on a politically sensitive issue with impact on fishermen is shocking as the state government has a clear-cut policy on deep-sea fishing activities.
It is likely several departments were kept in the dark about the signing of the MoU with a foreign company. The government would not have be caught on the wrong foot, as has happened now, if the EMCC deal was brought up before its departments concerned.
The convention that recommendations of such projects need to be sent for detailed analysis by experts was also not followed.
The EMCC project report says the project was being implemented with the cooperation of various central and state government establishments. However, no study or analysis was carried out about their participation before the signing of the MoUs.
Industry department launches probe
The Department of Industries has initiated a probe into the leakage of the letter written by EMCC International to Industry minister E P Jayarajan seeking Cabinet permission. The probe has been initiated on the direction of the chief minister.
The probe will mainly focus on the personal staff of the minister and other officials of his office. The government is startled as the letter received by the minister became public even before it was made part of a file noting.
Fisheries minister J Mercykutty has complained to the chief minister about the lapses on the part of the Department of Industries, sources say.
EMCC land in food park
As part of the deep-sea fishing project, EMCC has been allotted four acres out of the 84 acres acquired for the Industrial Development Corporation’s mega food park. The work on the mega food park began in June 2017 and it would be inaugurated soon after the completion of the waste disposal plant.
The park has been set up at a total cost of Rs 128 crore out of which Centre’s share is Rs 50 crore and the state government's 72 crore. Rs 6 crore will be in the form of loan.
At present 26 companies have been allotted space in the food park. Four units have already started their operations. The food park which is focused on processing marine products has cold storage facility.
The government has stated it won't reconsider the project as the land allotment to EMCC is above board.