THE FOUR-MONTH agitation by fishermen, church groups and activists against the Adani Group’s seaport project in Vizhinjam near Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram was called off “temporarily” Tuesday after the protest action council held discussions with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The move came a week after the protest, led by the Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram, turned violent with a police station in the area vandalised and around 50 police personnel attacked. The incident had triggered efforts at several levels in the state government and the Catholic Church to end the impasse.
The temporary truce came even as the state government refused to yield to the protesters’ key demand that construction work on the Rs 7,500-crore Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL) project be suspended until a report by experts on the port’s impact on the region’s fisheries sector is released.
Confirming that the agitation has been put on hold, the action council’s general convener Father Eugene Pereira said, “We are not fully satisfied. The agitation has now reached a new phase. We are not against the port project, our demand was that the anxiety of coastal people should be addressed.”
“We are also studying the impact of the project on sea erosion and the livelihood of fishermen. Agitations can’t continue till all demands are met. We are fully convinced about the negative impact of the port on the coastal sector. Our studies regarding that would continue. We hope the issues that we have raised are genuine,’’ he said.
On another demand that the house-rents of fishermen who had lost their homes to sea erosion be raised from Rs 5,500 to Rs 8,000, Pereira said the state proposed that the gap be met from CSR funds of the Adani Group. “But our agitation was not for monetary gains. We are against taking Adani funds. Hence, we have decided to settle for Rs 5,500 at present. We will explore other details,’’ he said.
He said the state has also decided to form a committee headed by the Chief Secretary to monitor whether the assurances given to the action council are honoured.
The decision to call off the agitation was taken a day before the Kerala High Court was expected to take up the matter. Last week, the state had informed the High Court that it had no objection to the deployment of central forces at the project site.
Earlier, the High Court had directed the state to give police protection for the construction of the port, which has missed its 2019 deadline.
Apart from the violence last week, the protest had drawn flak after one of its leaders, Father Theodasius D Cruz, remarked that the state’s Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman had a “terrorist in his name”. He was responding to the Minister’s remark that obstructing the construction work amounted to treason.