Kerala fishermen from the Vizhinjam region of Thiruvananthapuram district have been in disagreement with the state government for a long while. The grounds behind the protest is their objection to establishing a seaport put forward by the Adani group.
The fisherfolk who manage the protest is associated with the Latin Catholic Church. The church claimed that the state government is responsible for the violence created.
A petition was filed by the Adani group in the Kerala High Court seeking security forces to safeguard the construction work of the project. In response to this, the Kerala government expressed that they have already produced enough protection facilities, but the corporate group can still be on the lookout for additional provisions.
Vizhinjam international seaport project
The Vizhinjam port project was proposed by the Adani group with the objective to uplift the economy of India. The foundation stone of the port was laid by former Chief Minister of Kerala, Oomen Chandy, in December 2015. The scheme has not met its deadline. At present, the construction of the breakwater has been partly finished.
The Adani group came forward with the project claiming that the location of the port is in the vicinity of vital international shipping lines. According to the design, the port should have 30 berths and can manage colossal box ships. It connects to national and regional roads and the railway matrix. The establishment of the port could be intimidating to Dubai, Singapore and Colombo in terms of shipment.
In 2017, The Comptroller and Audit General of India released a report which said that a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with Adani Ports Private Limited will not be possible for the project as the Adani group is only funding Rs 2,454 crore out of Rs 7,525 crore. The record indicated the possibility of the State and the Centre taking the remaining expenditure.
Violence in November 2022
To put a stop to the construction work of the port, the dissidents blocked trucks carrying the building materials. 25 trucks were forced out of the construction area and another 25 trucks were not permitted to depart from the site of the port.
Around 3000 protesters broke into the Vizhinjam police station and caused damage to the police vehicles and properties. The attack was following the FIR taken against 15 Latin Catholic priests by the Vizhinjam police. The attackers were charged in many cases for their brutal actions.
Catholics against the government
The entire protesting mob is guided by Catholic priests. Along with the fishermen and a few priests, the Trivandrum Latin Archdiocese archbishop has also been accused of conspiracy, rampage, and blocking public servants.
Education minister V Sivankutty criticized the Latin Catholic Church. K Surendran, BJP state president, asserted that the Latin Catholic Diocese of Tuticorin which spearheaded the protest against the Kundankulam nuclear power plant in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu was at the back of the Vizhinjam attack as well.
Fishermen and their protest
The fisherfolk of Vizhinjam is highly concerned about the adverse consequences that would be brought by the port. They affirmed that with the formation of the port, sea erosion can occur. They are also worried about losing their houses and sources of income.
The following are the demands set by the fishermen:
- The port construction should be put on halt and a study should be conducted on the problem of sea erosion.
- A resolution should be made regarding the issue of sea erosion.
- Victims of sea erosion should be provided with accommodation facilities.
- On days of poor weather, monetary support should be given to the fishermen.
- Government-sponsored scheme for permanent resettlement.
- The Muthalapozhi matter should be addressed and the required compensation should be issued.
- The state government should bring down the price of kerosene
The stance of the state government
The Kerala state government asserted that the execution of the port plan will not cause erosion. The state censured the Latin Church for arranging and steering the protest against the government and the police. The administration also expressed its complete support for the construction of the port.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that by obstructing the erection of the port, the protesters are curbing the development of the state and the nation. He also added that the government will not back off from the Vizhinjam port project.