Thiruvananthapuram: The Left Democratic Front government has scrapped a second Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was concluded with the EMCC International (India) for a deep-sea fishing project. The Minister for Industries EP Jayarajan on Wednesday ordered the abrogation of the agreement that the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC) had entered into with the same firm, which is the Indian subsidiary of a US firm.
The increasing unease among the fishermen community and attack by the Opposition likely forced the decision.
This is the second MoU to be junked in two days as the government had issued an order on Tuesday scrapping the MoU that the Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) had signed with the same firm.
While cancelling the first order the government stated that the MoU was being cancelled as it was against the state fisheries policy. Another reason cited was that the deal had led to misinformation that the government had given permission for deep-sea fishing, a sensitive political issue.
The KSIDC's deal is for a Rs 5,000 crore project, whereas the KSINC's aborted deal which was signed on February 2 had envisaged Rs 2,950 crore investment to construct trawlers.
Legal experts pointed out that the KSIDC's MoU was still valid as no duration was specified. On the contrary, the government had claimed that the MoU with the KSIDC had a validity of just six months.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala had reiterated his demand that the KSIDC's MoU with the EMCC and the order allotting land to the company on Alappuzha coast should be cancelled. He also sought a judicial probe into the project.
Blame falls on KSINC?
The Coastal Shipping and Inland Navigation Department's order on cancelling the MoU said that the KSINC had signed the MoU without informing or discussing with the government.
The order also stated that the KSINC had signed the MoU for deep-sea fishing. But in reality, the MoU was signed for building trawlers and mothership, and development of fishing harbours.
The order also mentioned that the KSINC was fully under the control of the government. However, this is incorrect as the Corporation has over 100 private share-holders.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) also demanded that all steps taken with regard to deep-sea fishing be withdrawn. The Matsya Mekhela Samrakshana Samithi will hold protest meets in Kochi on Thursday and in Kozhikode on Friday. The outfit has also called for a coastal hartal on March 2.
Tapping the growing alienation of the fishing folk with the CPM-led government to the advantage of the Opposition, Congress national leader Rahul Gandhi toured the coastal belt in Kollam on Wednesday.
Fate of allotted land
Even as the state government decided to revike the second MoU with the EMCC, it is reportedly not keen on cancelling an order by which 4 acre was allotted to the EMCC at the Mega Food park at Pallippuram in Cherthala. The stand of the Department of Industries is that the MoU does not mention about the marine produce processing plant to be set up by the EMCC.
Moreover, the EMCC has not remitted the money and taken over the plot even though the land was allotted.
Government ignored centre's alert
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan revealed that the Centre had alerted the state government that EMCC was a fake company.
K R Jyothilal, while he was the Fisheries Principal Secretary, had sent a letter to the Ministry of External Affairs on October 3, 2019, seeking the details and reliability of the firm.
The Ministry had made enquiries with the Indian Consulate in New York and informed on October 21 that the company did not even have a proper address. Still the government signed the MoU during the ASCEND Kerala 2020 investors' meet with the fisheries department's approval!
As reported earlier the New York-based EMCC Global Consortium had submitted a detailed project report envisaging Rs 5,224.49 crore investment via its subsidiary company EMCC International (India) Pvt Ltd on August 3, 2019. The EMCC Global Consortium itself came into being on November 26, 2019. Strangely, a company which had not been formed legally managed to come up with a project before the Kerala government and this alone is enough to give rise to suspicions about corruption in the deal.