Home / India / Kerala government truce bid as protest reaches Adani port site

Kerala government truce bid as protest reaches Adani port site

Govt agrees to move families displaced by under-construction Vizhinjam seaport to rented accommodation by next month’s Onam festival
Police try to disperse the protesters at the Adanis’ port  project in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.
Police try to disperse the protesters at the Adanis’ port project in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.
PTI picture

K.M. Rakesh   |   Bangalore   |   Published 20.08.22, 02:40 AM

The CPM-led Kerala government on Friday agreed to move all the families displaced by the under-construction Vizhinjam seaport in Thiruvananthapuram to rented accommodation by next month’s Onam festival, hours after agitating fisherfolk broke barricades and entered the project site, protest leaders said.

Some 300 fishing families have lost their homes and beaches to coastal erosion blamed on the project, and have been agitating near the port since Tuesday demanding permanent housing near the sea so they can continue fishing for a living.

The protesters and environmentalists blame the coastal erosion in Vizhinjam and nearby beaches on changes in wind and wave patterns that they say have been caused largely by the breakwater of the deepwater seaport, being built by the Adani group.

The Rs 7,525-crore seaport is a public-private partnership between the Kerala government and Adani Vizhinjam Port Pvt Ltd. It will be India’s deepest port, capable of handling 80 per cent of the country’s transhipment cargo.

All construction at the port site has stopped since Tuesday, when the current phase of the agitation began with a blockade that has prevented the movement of trucks carrying building material, such as stones.

The state government has made it clear that the project would not be scrapped.

The Latin Archdiocese has been the voice of the affected families, most of whom belong to the Church. Several other Catholic denominations have extended support to the agitators.

Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor on Friday expressed support for the state government, saying development projects would eventually benefit the people.

“I have no difference of opinion with the chief minister and I accept what he said (about the necessity of the seaport),” added Tharoor, who had earlier met chief minister and CPM veteran Pinarayi Vijayan. In Kerala, the CPM and the Congress are the principal rivals.

Tharoor, however, expressed disappointment at being left out of the government’s discussions with the protesters, including Friday evening’s meeting.

Agitation leaders said the state government had agreed to move all these families to rented accommodation before Onam, to be celebrated on September 8, from the unused FCI warehouse where they have been accommodated over the past four years.

Earlier, as the round-the-clock protest led by the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum entered its fourth day, hundreds of men and women broke two layers of metal barricades and barged into the project site shouting slogans.

The large contingent of riot police deployed inside and outside the construction site managed to contain the situation. The agitation leaders were persuaded to withdraw to their original protest site, nearly 2km away on the road leading to the upcoming seaport.

Eugine H. Pereira, vicar-general of the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum who has been leading the agitation, spoke of some “success” after state fisheries minister V. Abdurahiman met the protest leaders in the evening.

“The minister heard us very patiently and agreed to move everyone to rented accommodation. So, they can celebrate this Onam in proper accommodation,” Pereira told reporters.

However, the protest will continue until the government agrees to “all the seven demands”, he added.

“The minister listened to our demand for a study on the impact of soil erosion and for a reduction in the price of kerosene (a fuel for motorboats) and assured us he would take them up with the chief minister,” Pereira said.

Copyright © 2020 The Telegraph. All rights reserved.