Religious groups meet fisherfolk near Vizhinjam seaport to solve ongoing issue

By Press Trust of India: Leaders of various religious groups in Kerala on Monday met with the fisherfolk protesting against the under-construction Vizhinjam seaport here as part of the ongoing efforts to bring peace in the area which witnessed violent agitations recently.

The religious leaders met with the fisherfolk at the protest ‘pandal’ set up near the port at nearby Mulloor in the wake of the recent violent attack on the Vizhinjam police station, which was vandalised and injuries were caused to 40 police personnel, by protesters demanding release of an accused and a few others who were in custody in connection with an earlier protest case.

Earlier in the day, CPI(M) MLA Kadakampally Surendran raised the more than 130-day long Vizhinjam protest issue in the assembly and said that the agitation was turning into an embarrassment for the state and urged the government to take steps to resolve the matter and complete the project.

He said it was a dream project for the state as well as the country as the port was close to international shipping lanes, was surrounded by deep waters and therefore, could accommodate huge ships once completely built.

It would bring major changes to various sectors, including tourism, commerce and transport, in the state, he said.

Responding to concerns raised by Surendran, Kerala Ports Minister Ahammed Devarkovil said, in the assembly, that the state government has been taking a stand that was favourable and practical with regard to the demands of the protesters.

He said the state government has agreed to most of the demands of the protesters and was taking steps to rehabilitate those displaced due to coastal erosion.

As part of the same, land has been acquired to build flats for them and till that was completed, it was also decided to provide such persons Rs 5,500 per month towards rented accommodation.

This amount was disbursed from September onwards and now it has been decided to increase the amount to Rs 8,000 per month with the Adani Group agreeing in writing to provide the balance of Rs 2,500 per month from their corporate social responsibility (CSR) fund, the minister said in the assembly.

He also said that the government was continuously making efforts to hold discussions with the protesters to resolve their concerns peacefully and to ensure the project work is completed.

Meanwhile, sources said backchannel efforts are also underway to sort out concerns raised by the protesters and make sure the port construction work goes on unobstructed.

A large number of people have been staging demonstrations outside the main entrance of the multi-purpose seaport for the last few months.

They have been pressing for their seven-point charter of demands that include stopping the construction work and to conduct a coastal impact study in connection with the multi-crore project.

The agitators have been alleging that the unscientific construction of groynes, the artificial sea walls as part of the upcoming port, was one of the reasons for the increasing coastal erosion.

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