Adani's Vizhinjam port simmers to heat up investor-friendly Pinarayi's CPM Govttext_fields
Thiruvananthapuram: The Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government's investment-friendly face is feeling the heat from the popular resistance in Kerala against its multicrore investment projects. The latest in this is a more than 80 days-old protest by the fishing community led by the powerful Thiruvananthapuram Latin Diocese against the construction of the Rs 7,525 crore Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Ltd project.
The developer Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd was forced to stop the construction work for the last 57 days. To add to the Left government's worry, the Adani group has also submitted to the government a list of losses running to Rs 100 crore. CM Pinarayi Vijayan is currently on a tour to Scandinavian and European nations mainly for meeting investors and attracting investment to the state. In an attempt to solve the port issue, the state Port minister Ahamed Deverkovil has called a meeting with the Adani group on October 15.
While the chances of a negotiated settlement with protesters became thin, the state government and the ruling CPM are finding it hard to find a solution to the Adani group's grievances. The government's move to hurriedly call a meeting was viewed as intended to force back the developer from approaching an arbitrator.
If Adani moves for arbitration for compensation for the loss of work days, the government fears that it may badly affect the image of an investment-friendly state. Adani had described its losses as what occurred in the hands of the protesters in the letter submitted to the Chief Secretary. According to Adani, it had a loss of 78.7 crore rupees due to the agitation from August 18, 2022, to September 30. It had also suffered a loss of 57 crore rupees because of the non0use of the machines it had rented.
Besides, the company was forced to disburse two crore rupees even though the workers were forced to sit in the labour camp. Large-size vessels and barges which were rented from big firms in Singapore and Dubai had been lying anchored for months at different ports. In the monsoon period when the construction work was not possible, the company wanted to move 15 vessels and barges to Mumbai, said a port official to Madhyamam English Online. "But at the behest of the state government, the company postponed the decision. The state wanted the construction work to be started immediately once the monsoon season was over in September. Government's intention was to save time," he added.
But according to the developer company they had spent 3,900 crore rupees - 100 crores more than the amount stated in the agreement. "At the next meeting Adanil may ask for an extension of the deadline to complete the construction work, a demand the government doesn't want to hear," said a port official. "But for the state, there is no option as the company's arbitration move may land the state in a legal entangle and possible debt trap for the exchequer," he added.
Meanwhile, the protest committee led by the Latin Diocese has accused the government of being responsible for all the issues. The protesters had decided to move forward with the agitation even after the Kerala High Court asked the protest committee to dismantle the tent they erected near the port gate. "The protest was started after over 300 families were forced to move to rehabilitation camps after their houses and land were destroyed in the sea erosion," said the convener of the protest committee Fr. Theyodesious Decrus. "Sea erosion intensified after the construction of the 3,100-meter breakwater started. 73 fishermen were killed in the sea rage," he said. The government should give 200 crore rupees to the fishermen community who had suffered losses because of the port construction', Fr. Theodesious also added. The protest committee also pointed out that 374 families are still living in an old cement factory godown which shows the government's lax attitude to solve the issue.
The agitators also alleged that it was the government's irresponsible attitude that forced them to come to the door of the port. Their seven-demand charter includes the immediate stop of port construction work and appoint an expert committee with the representative of the coastal community. But the unilateral announcement of the government to constitute an expert committee has also stopped the chances for a consensus.
There were criticisms against CM Pinarayi Vijayan, the Left Front leadership for the investment-friendly approach in its first term in 2016. Another pet multi-crore investment project of the CM, the semi-high-speed rail project (KRail) connecting Kasaragod and Thiruvananthapuram in four hours also met with stiff resistance from all sections.
The threat of large-scale eviction of people from their houses and acquisition of lands has sparked a popular resistance movement. Even after the government declared attractive rehabilitation plans, people did not change their opposition to the KRail project. There was criticism within the CPM leadership itself against the Chief Minister's and CPM's model of development through big projects.
According to them, as the lone left government in the country is bound to choose a sustainable path, it should not follow the neo-liberal path. "Choosing a right-wing path and ignoring the people's voice would be disastrous for the Left front," said a CPM state committee member. "We have in our front the example of West Bengal and Nandigram. It is the responsibility of the political leadership to correct the government," he added.