Kerala Ports Minister V Abdurahiman has said that ongoing protests against the Vizhinjam mega port trans-shipment container terminal amount to an offence against national interests. “This goes much beyond a mere show of dissent against an infrastructure project,” the Minister said while speaking at a seminar organised on Tuesday by State Government Nodal Agency, Vizhinjam International Seaports Ltd (VISL).

Any attempt to forcibly put a stop to the developmental work of projects with a professed aim to drive economic growth will be tantamount to an act of offence against national interests. There are some issues with the port construction at Vizhinjam but they will resolve in due course, the Minister emphasised. The Government has not harmed the fishermen living within the command area of the port, nor has it displaced them. 

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Acting with restraint

The High Court of Kerala has allowed the Government a free hand to deal sternly with protesters. But, it does not want to precipitate any untoward situation just yet. It is a different matter if protesters take the law into their own hands. The Minister pointed out that the State is going through a crucial developmental phase. It cannot afford to ignore new sources of revenue at a time when agriculture and other vocations are facing existential threats. 

The Government stands firm on its resolve, and the Minister recalled how it has been able to survive motivated campaigns on a bigger scale mounted against such projects even earlier. “We are committed to the time-bound completion of the Vizhinjam project and welcome mother ships. There is a level to which it can stoop while engaging organised protests,” the Minister said. 

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Will not give in yet

“The port will materialise, come what may. Hope good sense will prevail and protesters come to realise their folly and accept the reality,” he said. The Government had acted with a sense of responsibility in the matter and accepted as many as six of their main demands. But it was not able to give in to their outlandish demand that calls for a review after stopping work on the project entirely.  

The Government had also gone to the extent of setting up a committee to study their pending demand. Here, the Minister referred to organised protests launched against the laying of the GAIL pipeline in the State and the expansion of the national highway network. Protesters had given up their disruptive agenda after appreciating the benefits flowing out from such projects.