Kochi: Kerala government's decision to cancel an MoU for a Rs 5,000 crore deep-sea fishing project has riled the management of the US-based private firm which had driven the deal. The company executives insisted that the ministers in the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala were well aware of the deal and its implications, but are feigning ignorance after the opposition vehemently opposed it.
"The state government insulted us after we came up with a project of Rs 5,000 crore investment," noted EMCC Global Consortium president Shiju Varghese Methratayil.
"Will anyone believe that the officials had taken all the decisions without the knowledge of the ministers or without taking them on board? Since the stand taken by the state government is not helpful the company might withdraw from the deep-sea fishing project," Shiju told Manorama from New York in an interview.
The state-owned Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation (KSIDC) had concluded the deal with the US company's subsidiary EMCC International (India) to carry out deep-sea fishing off the coast of the state.
Edited excerpts of the interview:
Are you going ahead with the construction of a fish processing plant on the land sanctioned by the KSIDC?
I don't think there is any meaning in setting up a fish processing plant alone. We are waiting for an official intimation.
Why did you get ready for investing Rs 5,000 crore without waiting for the central government's permission which is mandatory for deep-sea fishing?
The 2019 marine policy had pointed to the need for encouraging deep-sea fishing. This encouraged us to plan the project. If the government policy was against the project the same should have been conveyed by the officials and the ministers.
On the controversies related to meeting the ministers?
We met the chief minister once at the Cliff House and at the state secretariat on another occasion. Fisheries Minister Mercykutty Amma and company CEO Duvan E Girenzer accompanied us. The chief minister asked us to submit a detailed project report after the discussions.
In the second meeting with Minister Mercykutty Amma top officials of the fisheries department were also present. A detailed report and design of the proposed processing plant were also submitted to the minister's office.
How could you implement a project with no past experience in the fishing sector?
Even though the company has no previous experience, all activities connected with the project would have been carried out by the fish workers and other workers in the fish processing sector besides members of the organisations like the Kudumbasree. The company would provide the technical knowhow and state of the art equipment for the plant.