Mr. Gandhi said he would strive for a separate ministry for fisheries at the Centre.
Seeking to reach out to the fishing community in poll-bound Kerala, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on February 24 interacted with the fishermen at Thangassery beach in the district.
Mr. Gandhi, touring the State for the last two days, ventured into the sea with fisherfolk in their boat.
After beginning his journey from Vadi beach here around 4.30 a.m., he spent nearly an hour with them before reaching the venue of the interaction.
He also cast the net and engaged in fishing with them.
Clad in a blue t-shirt and khaki trousers, the Congress leader was seen waving to the onlookers from the boat while returning to the shore.
AICC general secretary K.C. Venugopal and Member of Parliament T.N. Prathapan, also the chairman of National Fishermen Congress, accompanied him.
During the interaction, Mr. Gandhi said he had always wanted to experience the life of fishermen.
“Early this morning, I went to sea with my brothers… They take the entire risk… put in labour. They go out to the sea… and somebody else gets the profit,” Mr. Gandhi said. “We tried to fish but got only one. Even with this investment, the net came back empty. This was my experience,” he added.
Mr. Gandhi further said he would strive for a separate ministry for fisheries at the Centre. “So that the issues of the fishing community can be defended and protected,” he said, adding that the UDF leaders in the State would soon hold discussions with the fisherfolk to prepare a separate manifesto for them during the impending Assembly polls.
Taking a dig at the LDF government over the ongoing controversy related to the alleged deep sea fishing contract, the Congress leader said he wonders what they were going to do with the trawlers. “I am for competition…but not for unfair competition. So, there should be a level playing filed for everyone,” he added.
Mr. Gandhi’s interaction with the fishermen assumes significance as the Congress-led UDF has raised allegations against the Left government in the State over an alleged deep sea fishing contract with a U.S.-based company.
In the wake of the controversy, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had directed the officials concerned to cancel the MoU between EMCC, the U.S.-based firm and Kerala State Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC), a public sector undertaking and probe the circumstances under which it was signed.