Fisherfolk stir gains impetus as Congress lends support

In a bid to highlight pressing issues, including coastal erosion blamed on the construction of the Vizhinjam Port, protesters spread fishing nets and placed a few boats on the roads leading to Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress-led UDF on Thursday threw its weight behind the protest outside Vizhinjam port by the fisherfolk, who are pressing their seven-point charter of demands regarding various livelihood issues, saying this would be the first issue they raise when the state assembly session convenes next week.

Opposition leader VD Satheesan, who visited the protest site, told the fishermen that it was the coastal areas of eastern and south-eastern India which were in danger due to adverse weather conditions, but now it was happening in Kerala.

He claimed that this was evident from the fact that several square kilometers of coastal land in the state capital have been encroached upon by the sea and said that a comprehensive and long term solution is required for the problem.

"Therefore, when the assembly convenes next week, this is the first issue that we will raise in the House," Satheesan told the protesters.

Amidst the ongoing protests at the port, state Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman told reporters in Delhi that protesters were invited for talks, but they have not responded to it.

He also said that the state government will not take any step which would harm the interests of the fisherfolk.

His claims of the protestors being invited for talks were termed as 'falsehood' by the protest leaders, one of whom told the media that if the government was willing to consider their demands, they were ready for talks.

However, let the government first call us for talks. They have not yet done so, the priest said.

The protesters also said they will withdraw their agitation only after their demands are met and without that happening, no ship would be able to berth at the Vizhinjam port.

Led by the priests of the Latin Archdiocese, the coastal community members including women have been flocking to the entrance of the multi-purpose seaport, located at nearby Mulloor, in large groups since Tuesday, when the fourth phase of their protest commenced with the slogan 'Vizhinjam chalo'.

The state government, in an attempt to placate the protestors, had said that steps are being taken to allocate land for construction of flats to rehabilitate those fisherfolk who lost homes to the sea.

However, these conciliatory efforts have not proved sufficient to convince the fisherfolk to withdraw from the protests outside the port's main entrance.

The protesters have been alleging that the unscientific construction of groynes, the artificial sea walls known as "pulimutt' in local parlance, as part of the upcoming Vizhinjam port was one of the reasons for the increasing coastal erosion in the district.

(With inputs from PTI)

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