Pinarayi agrees to discuss Vizhinjam issue in Assembly. Will Church call off agitation?

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during in the Assembly
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan during the Assembly session.

The LDF government on Tuesday agreed to temporarily halt Assembly proceedings to discuss the Vizhinjam issue.

It was Kovalam MLA M Vincent who moved an adjournment motion urging the government to agree to a comprehensive debate on the issue. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan agreed immediately, saying the gravity of the issue merited a discussion in the Assembly.

The discussion will take place in the backdrop of conciliatory talks already initiated by the Major Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis. The Cardinal's mediation has already prompted both the sides from moving a few steps backward from their seemingly immovable positions.

The government, which has till now only given largely verbal assurances, has agreed to institute an institutional mechanism to monitor the rehabilitation of fisherfolk made homeless by natural disasters and development projects. The agitator, on their part, are expected to stop insisting on freezing the port construction.

As a concession, the government might agree to include a representative chosen by the agitators in the Expert Committee formed to study the impact of port construction on coastal life. The government has till now taken the stand that it was not technically feasible.

The government is also expected to increase the monthly rent promised to coastal families desperate to shift from poorly equipped relief camps from Rs 5500 to Rs 8000. Adani Ports could be asked to bear part of the financial burden.

Certain decisions that could even lead to the withdrawal of the nearly 140-day strike are expected to be announced during the discussion.

The coastal agitation had taken a turn for the worse two weeks ago when a blockade of construction materials by the agitators culminated in the attack of the Vizhinjam police station.

While the government came down heavily on the agitators, registering cases against even the Archbishop of the Latin Church, the Church alleged that there was a government conspiracy to provoke the coastal folk and, thereby, undermine the protest.

Communal tensions had also threatened to flare up. Ports minister Ahammad Devarkovil remarked that the agitators had targeted the houses of a specific community. Fisheries minister V Abdurahiman said the attempt to block development was an anti-national activity.

In retaliation, Fr Theodosius D'Cruz, leader of the agitation, made the highly provocative remark that there was a terrorist in Abdurahiman's name.

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