The Kerala High Court on Monday orally observed that people agitating against the construction of the Vizhinjam International Seaport project could protest peacefully, but the question is whether they could completely hold up construction work of the project.
Fishermen under the aegis of the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram have been protesting against the project demanding rehabilitation for families who had lost their homes due to sea erosion, effective steps to mitigate coastal erosion and financial assistance.
Justice Anu Sivaraman while hearing the petition filed by Managing Director, CEO and Corporate Affairs Head of Adani Vizhinjam Port seeking police protection orally observed that the agitations should not lead to a situation whereby the project was held to ransom. The court said that protests could not be quelled. But the question is whether they could hold up the project construction, and if they had any complaints, they would be considered.
The court adjourned the hearing on the petition to August 31.
When the petition came up for hearing, the counsel for the petitioners submitted that despite the court’s interim order directing police to maintain the law and order situation at the port site, the public was barred from entering even as the protestors were allowed to enter and commit vandalism.
Adani port in its petition pointed out that protesters were trying to prevent/ delay commissioning of the project by obstructing construction. Hundreds of people under the leadership of the priest had started agitation in front of the project site, blocking access to port entry. It had resulted in stalling the main works underway at the port.
The agitators had broken the barricades erected by police and entered the high-security project site on August 16. Although petitioners had approached the police for protection, no effective protection had been provided to them. The agitation had caused heavy losses and damages to the company and its contractor while the police remained mute spectators.
The project could not be completed as per schedule because of the scarcity of rock boulders, natural disasters like cyclones and the Covid 19 pandemic. Any further delay in completing the project would adversely affect the petitioners, the State government and even the public since a part of the project including the construction of a breakwater and fishing harbour was funded by public money.