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Kerala: Boat burns in protest against Adani port

Rs 7,525-crore project is being developed under a public-private partnership between the state government and Adanis
The boat on fire during the protest on Thursday.
The boat on fire during the protest on Thursday.
PTI picture

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 28.10.22, 01:43 AM

Fisherfolk breached from sea and land a port being built by the Adanis in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, to mark the 100th day of their protest against the facility that they say is a threat to the ecology and their livelihood.

The protesters, backed by a section of the Church but told by the court not to disrupt work on the project, flung police barricades into the sea and burnt at least one of their fishing boats.


The Rs 7,525-crore Adani Vizhinjam Port Pvt Ltd is being developed under a public-private partnership between the Kerala government and the Adanis. The project has displaced hundreds of families in the nearby fishing villages as their homes have been lost to coastal erosion, caused allegedly by a breakwater built as part of the project.

The CPM-led state government had accepted most of the protesters’ demands but a breakthrough has eluded the key demand: suspend the project until a fresh environment-impact study is carried out. The government feels the infrastructure project is too crucial for the country to be halted now.

Men and women who participated in Thursday’s protest warned that they would not back down until all their demands had been met.

More than 100 fishing boats sailed into the upcoming seaport while thousands of men and women broke the police barricades and marched into the project site from the land side, raising slogans against the state government and the company.

Women who breached the project site told reporters that they had joined the protest since it was a matter of survival for the fisherfolk.

“We have only heard about animals and plants facing extinction. But now we, the fisherfolk of this area, are facing extinction due to the callous attitude of the state government,” a woman said.

Showing the burning boat, a protester told reporters that they had no other way to make the authorities understand their plight. “If there is no coast, we have no life. We are setting fire to our means of livelihood. If the port comes into being, we will lose our coast forever,” he said.

Another fisherman pointed to the lack of kerosene subsidy, a longstanding demand of the local fisherfolk.

Left-leaning Malayalam actor Alencier Ley Lopez joined the protest and urged the government not to neglect the demands of the fisherfolk. “The LDF (Left Democratic Front), which is supposed to uphold justice and fairness, should help these poor people. I can comfortably sit in an air-conditioned room. But I am with the poor. The Adani port should not come up,” he told the protesters.

A section of the protesters allegedly turned against reporters and camera crew covering the agitation and damaged their equipment. A policeman also suffered injuries before cops managed to defuse the situation. Local reporters alleged that some priests backing the movement had used foul language against journalists.

Eugine H. Pereira, vicar-general of the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, which is leading the protest, apologised for putting journalists in trouble and blamed the police for the tension.

“We apologise to the reporters who were caught in this melee after objections over a policeman clicking pictures (of the protesters),” he said.

Patrick Michael, president of the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, said the agitation would only intensify. “Today we pitched a tent inside the project site. We are planning to use that as a second sit-in venue.”

He alleged the government had yet to deliver on the promises it had made. “The government only makes promises. They haven’t delivered on anything so far. They agreed to pay Rs 5,500 as monthly rent allowance. But who will pay the advance to get houses on rent? And what is the guarantee that we will get the allowance every month?” Michael asked.

The ongoing agitation was launched on July 20 and intensified on August 16 when the protesters blocked the only road leading to the seaport, stalling all construction by stopping trucks laden with raw materials like stones and cement.

The ruling LDF has been engaged in discussions with the protesters with the aim of finding a solution by November 1.

Kerala High Court had last week sought a report from the state government on the steps taken to provide police protection to the port. The court had earlier directed the government to maintain law and order and allow work to resume.

(Additional reporting by PTI)

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