Representatives of the All Kerala Fishing Boat Operators Association, who had approached both the State and the Centre for support to conduct deep-sea fishing, say the entry of foreign firms in the sector will be disastrous.
“We already have more than enough trawlers and they are talking about launching a fleet of 400 extra vessels. The mechanised sector has been struggling due to the depletion in marine stock and the project is not at all viable. Last year, shipyard had built 40 vessels for the fishers from Thrissur with a Central subsidy of ₹1 crore. At present the vessels are operating at a loss,” says Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal, general secretary.
He said none of the Indian or foreign officials attached to EMCC International Private Limited had any connection with the field.
“Suddenly they decide to invest ₹5,000 crore and the move is suspicious. Their real objective can be offshore oil and gas production, or they must be targeting minerals. This project can be an attempt to study the possibilities and we should investigate if some external forces like the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] are involved,” he says.
‘Scrap the agreement’
Traditional fishers have urged the State government to scrap the agreement between EMCC International (India) Pvt Ltd and the Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) calling it inimical to the interests of local fishers. “The State government has already announced loans for 100 deep-water fishing boats with modern facilities in the State Budget. So how does that announcement match with the KSINC deal,” asked Jackson Pollayil, president, Kerala State Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation.
The government has earmarked ₹25 crore in the 2021-22 Budget for the purpose of providing 25% subsidy in this regard. “Fisheries resources are already facing depletion and we are cooperating with the regulations put in place by the government. Inviting investors at this juncture is sheer cruelty,” he said.
A public convention planned at Ernakulam on Sunday will give shape to protests against the agreement, he said. The federation has also sought an investigation into the deal.