Kerala Oppn backs fishermen’s protest at Vizhinjam port

Published on Aug 19, 2022 12:46 AM IST

Led by the priests of the Latin Archdiocese, the coastal community members including women have been flocking to the entrance of the multi-purpose seaport, located at nearby Mulloor, in large groups since Tuesday, when the fourth phase of their protest commenced with the slogan ‘Vizhinjam chalo’.

Leader of Opposition in Kerala V D Satheesan, who visited the protest site, told the fishermen that in the past it was the coastal areas of eastern and south eastern India which were in danger due to adverse weather conditions, but now it was happening in Kerala. (HT Photo)
Leader of Opposition in Kerala V D Satheesan, who visited the protest site, told the fishermen that in the past it was the coastal areas of eastern and south eastern India which were in danger due to adverse weather conditions, but now it was happening in Kerala. (HT Photo)
ByPress Trust of India

Thiruvananthapuram: The Congress-led UDF opposition in Kerala on Thursday threw its weight behind the protest outside the Vizhinjam port by the fisherfolk, who are pressing their seven-point charter of demands regarding various livelihood issues, saying this would be the first issue they raise when the state assembly session convenes next week.

Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state assembly V D Satheesan, who visited the protest site, told the fishermen that in the past it was the coastal areas of eastern and south eastern India which were in danger due to adverse weather conditions, but now it was happening in Kerala.

He claimed that this was evident from the fact that several square kilometers of coastal land in the state capital have been encroached upon by the sea and said that a comprehensive and long term solution is required for the problem.

“Therefore, when the assembly convenes next week, this is the first issue that we will raise in the House,” Satheesan told the protesters.

Prior to his arrival, as the protest entered its third day, the situation at the site heated up with the agitators pushing some of the barricades onto a nearby temporary shelter erected for police personnel deployed there, bringing its roof down.

As the police personnel struggled to put the barricades back in place, the protesters managed to breach it and move a few meters towards the port entrance before being blocked by the police personnel there.

However, the protesters did not try to move further ahead by force and those leading them, the priests of the Latin Archdiocese, spoke to senior police officers at the site to permit them to march peacefully towards the gate of the port and return to where the barricades were placed where they would sit peacefully.

The officers initially said that there are thousands of protestors there and it would not be possible to let them all through, to which the priests assured the protesters were under their control and nothing untoward would happen.

But later they relented and allowed the protesters to march up to the tetrapods, placed close to the gates, climb on top of them and raise their flags.

Subsequently, the protestors returned as promised by their leaders, to where they were initially staging their agitation.

Amidst the ongoing protests at the port, state Fisheries Minister V Abdurahiman told reporters in Delhi that protesters were invited for talks, but they have not responded to it.

He also said that the state government will not take any step which would harm the interests of the fisherfolk.

His claims of the protestors being invited for talks were termed as ‘falsehood’ by the protest leaders, one of whom told the media that if the government was willing to consider their demands, they were ready for talks.

However, let the government first call us for talks. They have not yet done so, the priest said.

The protesters also said they will withdraw their agitation only after their demands are met and without that happening, no ship would be able to berth at the Vizhinjam port.

Led by the priests of the Latin Archdiocese, the coastal community members including women have been flocking to the entrance of the multi-purpose seaport, located at nearby Mulloor, in large groups since Tuesday, when the fourth phase of their protest commenced with the slogan ‘Vizhinjam chalo’.

The state government, in an attempt to placate the protestors, had said that steps are being taken to allocate land for construction of flats to rehabilitate those fisherfolk who lost homes to the sea.

However, these conciliatory efforts have not proved sufficient to convince the fisherfolk to withdraw from the protests outside the port’s main entrance.

The protesters have been alleging that the unscientific construction of groynes, the artificial sea walls known as “pulimutt’ in local parlance, as part of the upcoming Vizhinjam port was one of the reasons for the increasing coastal erosion in the district.

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