Rajya Sabha MP and Congress leader Madhusudam Mistry on Monday led a protest against the ongoing construction of a jetty by Essar off Salaya, and demanded that local fishermen’s consent be made compulsory for any development project along the coast like consent of farmers was necessary for land acquisition.
“This is a fight for not investing crores in big factories, but for ensuring that crores get employment by small investments…. We challenge the rich like Essar and other industrialists, who have cornered wealth of entire country and harbour dream of forming government of their choice.
Companies want the government to function the way they want, but this is not acceptable to us. The Central government has enacted a law mandating consent of 75 per cent affected farmers if any industry wants to acquire land. I’m going to request the Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) to push the demand for a law giving rights up to three kilometres of sea to fishermen.
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As consent of farmers is mandatory for land acquisition, approval of fishermen should also be made compulsory for setting up any industry on coast or off coast,” said Mistry, while addressing Walk for Asmita, a public meeting of fishermen in the port town of Salaya in Devbhoomi Dwarka district.
Esaar is building a captive bulk cargo jetty on Salaya coast to cater to the need of coal and other material for its thermal power plant and oil refinery at nearby Vadinar village. Fishermen of Salaya and other 13 villages have raised apprehensions that the jetty will destroy their fishing ground and also block movement of their boats.
The company has rubbished the allegations and the apprehensions as “baseless” and with “malafide intentions”.
Mistry, also a general secretary of the All India Congress Committee, said he will raise this issue in Rajya Sabha, and alleged that communities like fishermen, tribals, daily wagers and farmers figured nowhere in development plan of the present government.
“Instead of building a bridge, Essar has constructed a five km road to connect their jetty to the coast. This road has blocked movement of fishing boats and also hampered tidal waters. This will force fishermen to take longer routes to move in and out of fishing harbours,” Mistry told The Indian Express.
The Rajya Sabha MP said that Congress will actively oppose the underconstruction jetty. When asked that why the party did not protest against a number of other captive jetties which have come up along Gujarat coast, Mistry said there was no protest from local fishermen.
Former Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhwadia, who accompanied Mistry, dubbed the present government “a government of companies” and those in power as “British of another hue”.
Adam Bhaya, secretary of India Sailing Vessels Owners Association, who moved the Gujarat High Court seeking stay on construction of the jetty, said: “The jetty is being developed near Kalumbar island and water around this island is a rich fishing ground. The water is also very rich in marine biodiversity. When the jetty becomes functional that area will become no-fishing zone.”
Ashok Panjabi, vice-president of GPCC threatened to gherao Esaar offices in Ahmedabad and Mumbai, if it went ahead with construction of its jetty.
However, in a statement, Esaar trashed claims of illegal construction and harming interests of fishermen. “Esaar is building a jetty by investing Rs 1,500 crore for our power plant which supplies power to the Gujarat government.
But some organisations with vested interests are levelling baseless allegations against the company with malafide intention.
In this respect, we would like to clarify that the construction of Salaya jetty is completely legal and does not go against any court order. Nor will the jetty impact fishermen or fishing industry negatively.
On the contrary, the company is developing a structure in the bund which will allow fishing boats to pass under it… The company is developing the jetty after all due clearances and no High Court order is violated in doing so,” it said, adding the jetty will provide employment to local residents.