Vizhinjam project: No intimidatory procedures used against minorities, says Centre

In the ongoing Parliament session, the government says that no land of fishermen was acquired by the Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited

Vizhinjam project

On December 15, 2022, during the ongoing Winter Session of the Parliament, Lok Sabha Member Shri Kodikunnil Suresh (KPCC) The member questioned whether the government was aware of the intimidation tactics used against fishermen and members of the minority Christian community in the Thiruvananthapuram district’s Vizhinjam coastal area who were protesting the delay in receiving compensation and other benefits for giving up their land for the construction of the Vizhinjam port project. He also requested information on the specifics of the measures being implemented.

Kodikunnil Suresh also enquired as to whether the government had received any response in this respect from the government of Kerala and whether it intended to set up a commission to investigate the crimes committed against members of the minority Christian community in Vizhinjam, Kerala.

The Minister of the Minority Affairs, Smriti Irani, responded to the abovementioned question by informing the Lok Sabha that “’Public Order’ and ‘Police’ are State subjects as per the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. The responsibility of maintaining law and order, registration, and prosecution of crimes against all citizens including Christian, rests with the respective State Governments.”

In reference to the other questions asked about the measures taken by the government to provide compensation and benefits to the ones whose lands had been acquired by the government, the government’s response was that “The Government of Kerala has informed that they or their nodal agency, VizhinjamInternational Seaport Limited have not acquired land of any fisherman or displaced them from their houses for the Vizhinjamport project. It has also conceded that the local residents have obstructed the construction activities for 115 days ignoring the direction of the Hon’ble High court, Kerala, and directions in the related Contempt Case. Further, the State Government has informed that no intimidatory procedures were employed against the minority community and only measures taken were as per the law and order of the State and no rights were breached.”

The government dodged all the inquiries put forth in the LokSabha and turned around to blame the people involved instead. Additionally, the government conveniently provided that no record of atrocities committed against Christians has been maintained by them as it is a state subject. Thus, the government denied that any oppression of the Christian minority is taking plane in Kerala, and even denied that there is any requirement to provide the aggrieved with any compensation or benefits.

The full answer can be read here.

Brief about the Vizhinjam port project

According to reports, the Rs. 7,525 crore Adani VizhinjamInternational Seaport project will be an all-weather, 24-meter deep-seaport that can handle cargo ships the size of megamax. IT is claimed that the transshipment container terminal will lower logistical expenses and boost industry competitiveness. Once finished, it will be India’s first hub for container transhipment, vying with Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Dubai for trade on lucrative east-west trade routes.

Since it was first proposed in 1991, when late Congress leader K Karunakaran was the Chief Minister, the building of the Vizhinjam port has long been a state dream project. However, for a number of reasons, it never happened. In 2011, it received its initial push from the former UDF administration.  An agreement was signed with Adani groups under PPP route on Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer basis (DBFOT).

When LDF was in opposition, they strongly opposed moving the project into the private sector and accused them of engaging in corruption. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had stated earlier that the government would implement the project as there was no option before it other than to execute the project inked by the previous UDF government.

Why is the fishermen community protesting against the project?

The big Vizhinjam project has generated controversy since the local fishing community has joined together to oppose it. The Latin Catholic church is supporting the protests and violence that have broken out against this project. Vizhinjam’s natural, undredged draught makes it the ideal location for a deepwaterport. Construction was stopped by protesters for about four months, and they claim that the project is destroying habitats, the economy, and the ecological world.

When protesters invaded the Vizhinjam police station in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s capital, on November 27, 2020, the anti-project demonstrations turned violent. According to media reports, the incident injured at least 12 police officers.The people were obstructing the site’s entry with a makeshift shelter with the help of Catholic priests. More than 80 people were hurt as a result of the police’s attempt to mediate.

Following these demonstrations, at least 50 Latin Catholic priests, including Archbishop of Thiruvananthapuram’s Latin Archdiocese Archbishop Thomas J. Netto reportedly had cases filed against them.  Local tensions spiralled when Thomas Nettowas named as the first accused in an FIR against him. In the new FIR, 50 priests are also listed, including Auxiliary Bishop Christudas and Vicar General Eugeine Pereria. Apart from this, the police also registered cases against 3,000 people. 

It is the local fishing population led by the influential Latin Catholic Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram has been arguing that the breakwater and works will impact their way of life and residences for some time. 

What is the government doing? 

The administration and the government have not yet treated the demonstrators harshly. However, the protest is still going on, and the LDF government, notably the CPM, is in a quandary because of the fierce resistance to the proposal. Since the port is being built where they are concentrated, local fishermen from the Muslim and Christian communities are truly upset. Sincere and genuine worry of losing their homes and means of support exists. Following the start of development, sea erosion in the project region poses another difficulty. Some of their issues include not receiving enough compensation for the destruction of their homes and means of subsistence.

According to the administration, enough compensation has been agreed upon. In a number of meetings, both the protesters and the church agreed to the offer of increased compensation. However, in cases of mass displacement, compensation frequently remains a pipe dream until projects are under way and residents have been “cleared”.

This year’s Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL) protest by local fishermen started on August 16 and hasn’t ended after two rounds of negotiations with the administration. Five of the seven demands were accepted by the administration during the initial round of negotiations.


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Why We Must Say No to Vizhinjam Project



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