State ignored the Centre’s warning on EMCC: Muraleedharan

Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan on Tuesday said the State government had struck a ₹5000-crore agreement with EMCC International to build a deep-sea fishing fleet despite being forewarned by the Centre that the firm existed only on paper.

On October 3, 2019, State Transport secretary K. R. Jyothilal had written to the Ministry of External Affairs seeking the help of the Indian Consulate in New York to verify the firm’s legitimacy.

India’s Consular General wrote back on October 21, 2019, that the firm lacked a proper address. The company existed only on paper and in the virtual domain. It had no business or physical presence and had remained dormant. He informed the State government that the company was a fake.

Cautionary report

However, the government ignored the cautionary report. It inked two agreements with the “suspect” company on February 28, 2020. Mr. Muraleedharan said the deal smacked of corruption. The political executive was trying to take cover from public anger by making government officials scapegoats. Ministers had said KSINC and KSIDC officials had blindsided them.

Their statements lacked credibility. The government had stabbed fisherfolk in the back. Corruption had motivated the government to advantage the foreign firm, he said.

EMCC has, however, contested Mr. Muraleedharan’s statement. Industries Minister E. P. Jayarajan said the Centre had not warned the State about EMCC’s bonafide. He denied the KSIDC had given industrial park land to the firm.

CPI(M) clarifies

Meanwhile, CPI(M) acting State secretary A. Vijayaraghavan said in Pattambi in Palakkad that the government’s agreements with EMCC were exploratory. The government annulled them after it found it ran against the grain of the State’s fisheries policy.

In 2017, the State government had stood shoulder-to-shoulder with fishers to persuade the Centre to withdraw the fishing permits granted to foreign and domestic corporates to trawl the deep sea. The LDF was staunchly opposed to allowing foreign or domestic fishing fleet owners or corporates to exploit the State’s marine wealth, he said.

It had fought an attempt by the Narasimha Rao government in 1991 to open the seas for foreign trawlers. The LDF has always stood by fisherfolk and protected their interests. The Congress attempt to turn them against the government would fail, Mr. Vijayaraghavan said.

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