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Decoding the fishermen’s protest against Adani’s Vizhinjam Port in Kerala | Explainer

There have been violent protests by the fishermen in Thiruvanthapuram’s Vizhinjam against the construction of a port by the Adani Group. The Kerala government has reiterated that they will not backtrack from the port project. Here is everything you need to know about the ongoing controversy.

New Delhi ,UPDATED: Dec 5, 2022 08:17 IST

Police officers deployed near the entrance of the proposed Vizhinjam Port

Police officers deployed near the entrance of the proposed Vizhinjam Port in Kerala as fishermen protest. (Photo: Reuters/File)

By Gautham Balaji: The fishermen in Thiruvananthapuram’s Vizhinjam area are engaged in a protest against a sea port which is proposed to be established there by the Adani group. Many of the fisherfolk are members of the Latin Catholic Church, which is helming the protest.

Now, after a week of violent protests, which left both protesters and police personnel injured, informal talks have begun to end the agitation, according to media reports. But, letters read at the Latin Catholic Churches reportedly blame the government for the violence.

Earlier, the state government, in its reply to a petition filed by the Adani group in the Kerala High Court seeking security forces from the Centre to protect the construction, said that they were providing all the protection required, but the group was free to approach the Centre for more.

“We do not need central forces to maintain law and order in the area. It is the Adani group which has sought the central forces,” said Minister of Ports, Ahammad Devarkovil.

But, why are there protests against the port being constructed by the Adani Group in Vizhinjam? Here is all you need to know about the Vizhinjam port and why fishermen are agitating against its construction.

VIZHINJAM PORT: A BRIEF

Former Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy laid the foundation stone of the Vizhinjam port construction back in December 2015. The Rs 7,525 crore port, being built by Adani Ports Private Limited, has since missed its completion deadline.

According to the Adani group, the port is located in proximity to major international shipping routes and will boost India’s economy. It is also strategically important since it will challenge Colombo, Singapore and Dubai for a portion of the shipment traffic. Internally, it had links to both national and regional roads and to the railways’ network.

However, a report by The Comptroller and Auditor General of India, which was submitted in 2017 in the Kerala Assembly, stated that the Public Private Partnership (PPP) model was not favourable since the Adani Group would invest only Rs 2,454 crore out of Rs 7,525 crore. The state and the Centre have to bear the remaining costs.

FISHERMEN PROTEST

For four months, fishermen in the region have been protesting against its construction. They state that the construction of the port will result in widespread sea erosion, and destroy their houses and livelihoods.

Their seven-point demands are:

  1. Conduct an impact study and shelve the project till the report is out
  2. Rehabilitation of families who lost their homes to sea rage
  3. Compensation for loved ones in fishing accidents
  4. Financial aid to fisherfolk on days weather warnings are issued
  5. Subsidise kerosene
  6. A mechanism to dredge the Muthalappozhi fishing harbour in Anchuthengu
  7. Effective steps to mitigate coastal erosion.

ALSO READ: Why the stalemate between Vizhinjam port protesters, Pinarayi government continues

The protesters, mostly led by the Latin Catholic Church, erected a large shelter, blocking the entrance to the port. When the Kerala High Court allowed the construction to resume in the last week of November, the standoff between the police and the protesters resulted in violence and injuries to people on both sides.

KERALA GOVT REMAINS FIRM

However, this protest comes despite the government’s stand that the port would not cause erosion. The state has blamed the Latin Church for mobilising the protest and has further said that the construction of the port will go ahead.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in the first week of December 2022, said that the anti-port agitators were destroying the state’s peace and progress.

He further asserted, “It is not a protest against the government… It’s an attempt to halt the state’s development. In whatever garb they come, they will not be permitted to succeed,” adding that the government would not backtrack on the Vizhinjam port project.




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