Thiruvananthapuram: Protesters enter Adani port again
Hundreds protested inside the premises of the under-construction Vizhinjam deepwater seaport in Thiruvananthapuram after breaking barriers for the second consecutive day in a clear message to the Kerala government that they would end the agitation only after all their demands had been met.
Led by the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum, fisherfolk displaced by coastal erosion believed to have been caused largely by the constructions for the port being built by the Adani group, marched up to the groynes, or artificial sea walls, at the far end of the project site and planted their yellow-and-blue flags.
Hundreds of men and women braved the blazing sun and began their march towards the project site after toppling three levels of steel barricades placed by the police. They smashed the locks of the giant port gates, entered the project site, walked close to 2km and climbed the seawall.
They began their march back to their sanctioned protest site around noon.
The protest began on August 16, stalling the movement of construction materials.
There were no untoward incidents on Saturday apart from the protesters breaking the steel barriers, a day after they had breached the security cordon and gained access to the port site for the first time.
“We want to make it clear that we will end the agitation only after the government fulfils the promises made to us on our demands,” the president of the archdiocese, Patrick Michael, told The Telegraph.
Michael, who had marched to the seaport site with the hundreds of protesters, said the agitators wanted proper rehabilitation for the displaced families and protection of the coastline that has been home to fisherfolk for centuries.
In a breakthrough, the state government had on Friday assigned fisheries minister V. Abdurahiman to talk to the protesters. A delegation led by the vicar-general of the Church, Eugine Pereira, had held a three-hour discussion, insisting the government accept all the protesters’ seven demands, including halting of the project till a fresh environmental impact study is conducted.
While the Left Democratic Front government has ruled out halting the project, it has agreed to meet most of the demands, including shifting the 300 displaced families to rented accommodation until they can move into a state-funded housing project.
Abdurahiman had on Friday told the delegation their demands for cheaper kerosene and a study to assess the environmental impact of the construction of the seaport would be taken up with chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is expected to meet the protesters in a few days.
The high price of kerosene, used as fuel for fishing boat engines, has been a bone of contention for several years. While each boat owner is allowed 120 litres of kerosene per month at Rs 93 a litre, the protesting fishermen want Kerala to replicate the Tamil Nadu model of making 300 litres of subsidised kerosene available at Rs 25 a litre.
The agitation has stopped all work at the Rs 7,525-crore seaport, a public-private partnership between the Kerala government and Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Limited. While it was originally slated for opening in 2018, the project has been hit by delays. The current target is to become operational by 2023 as India’s deepest seaport.
Apart from a rehabilitation package, cheaper kerosene and an impact assessment study on coastal erosion, the protesters want prompt cash compensation to fisherfolk involved in sea accidents, minimum wages for days they are forced stay on land because of poor weather, and a resolution of the dangers posed by dredging at the Muthalapozhi fishing harbour in Thiruvananthapuram.
Several lives have been lost at the fishing harbour because of faulty construction that triggers dangerously high waves that often topple fishing boats.