Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan downplayed the ongoing strike by fishermen against the construction of the Adani Group-led ₹7,500-crore Vizhinjam International Seaport, now entering the final stages, and expressed the State government’s resolve to complete the mega project. Addressing the State Assembly on Tuesday, the Chief Minister termed the agitation ‘anti-people and anti-development’. No fisherman would lose his home or means of livelihood due to the Vizhinjam port project. In the unlikely event of this happening, the government would promptly intervene, he added.

Financial losses

Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman said the agitation cropped up just as the government had raised a demand to the Adani Group to make amends for delaying the project’s commissioning beyond the original timeline of 2019. The Adanis have challenged this in the arbitral tribunal. Any attempt to discontinue the project would entail significant financial losses and mar the state’s investment climate. The minister claimed that no land owned by fishermen had been acquired for the project. Hydrological surveys had ruled out sedimentation at the harbour mouth or off the adjacent fish landing centres. Leader of Opposition VD Satheesan maintained that the Opposition was not against the port project but called fo a mutual give-and-take approach to respect the sentiments of all, especially the displaced coastal community.

Outsider influence

The Chief Minister charged that the organisers of the strike had roped in outsiders and that their actions were premeditated. He rejected their contention that the breakwater construction had caused beach erosion and other hazards. Studies by the National Green Tribunal and Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, too, had ruled this out. Instead, it was climate change that had rendered the coastline vulnerable to cyclones and rising sea levels. The Chief Minister’s response comes on a day the strikers threatened to intensify their stir and dared him to disperse them without meeting their demands, which included a complete halt on the project and the launch of a fresh environmental and social impact study. The Leader of the Opposition, meanwhile, criticised the government for blaming climate change alone for the travails of the fisherfolk.

Earlier, the Speaker disallowed the Opposition Congress-led motion to adjourn the House to discuss what it alleged was the government’s failure to rehabilitate fishermen displaced by the mega project. On its part, the government made it clear it was open to discussions with the protestors. The Opposition walked out of the House, charging the government with betraying the vulnerable coastal community. Satheesan said the government and the Adani Group speak in the same voice. Meanwhile, the strikers warned they would block the main thoroughfares of the State capital with fishing boats and nets during Onam celebrations, if the government did not accept their demands.