Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government was recently cornered by the Opposition over a controversial deal with a US firm. Contrary to the LDF government's claim, documents obtained through an application filed under the Right To Information Act has confirmed that the Kerala Chief Minister's Office and senior bureaucrats had advance knowledge of the controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on deep-sea fishing.
The Chief Minister's Additional Private Secretary Major Dinesh Bhaskaran and Additional Chief Secretary T K Jose had information of the MoU even before it was inked.
The new revelations have punched holes in the claims of Chief Minister Pinaryi Vijayan and others in the ministry that they were unaware of the MoU signed between the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) and the US-based EMCC International.
The government has been so far denying that the MoU signed at the Ascend Global Investors’ Meet was the root cause of the controversy. Instead, it held KSINC responsible for the deal, now revoked, saying it had signed the MoU without the knowledge of the government.
After the Ascend meet, KSINC signed an MoU with EMCC on February 28, 2020, permitting the US firm to conduct deep-sea trawling. Based on this deal, KSINC signed another MoU on February 2, 2021, for building trawlers. This is mentioned in the MoU. Additionally, the MoU was for building trawlers, and not for deep-sea fishing.
The government had blamed KSINC and its Managing Director Prasanth N after Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala exposed the deal and its likely ramifications. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma have been claiming the deal was signed without the government's approval.
KSINC MD was told to give publicity to MoU
Major Dinesh Bhaskaran was informed of the signing of the MoU and he had congratulated KSINC Managing Director Prasanth N. Additional Chief Secretary T K Jose also lauded Prasanth and asked him to give publicity to the MoU.
Press Secretary to the Chief Minister P M Manoj, too, knew about the signing of the MoU. A news clipping and a picture taken while inking the deal were forwarded to Manoj over WhatsApp on February 2, the documents revealed.
The documents also revealed a communication with CM's personal staff member Suneesh, seeking an appointment with the Chief Minister in connection with the project.