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Adani Port in Vizhinjam, near Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital of Kerala, India has hit a road block with local people started agitating against the port. The agitation has entered into the fourth day and is likely to intensify as there is no immediate solution to their demands. Piling and other work is stalled.

Hundreds of fisherfolk, including women and children, blocked the road in the project site by placing old boats. They raised slogans demanding immediate steps from the government and Adani Vizhinjam Port Private Ltd (AVLP). Local people continue stir even at night demanding implementation of rehabilitation package. The agitators were adamant that they would not withdraw the blockage unless the issue was resolved.

The fishermen said cracks had developed in their houses due to piling. They demanded suspension of the piling work or adequate measures to protect their houses adjacent to the project site. Since the piling work is in the initial stages, the damages to the houses are only continue to rise. They are also enraged over the delay in implementing the rehabilitation package announced in the May 15 meeting convened by Chief Minster Pinarayi Vijayan after a protest on May 8.

The protesters are also getting political support as former Chief Minister and Chairman of the Kerala Administrative Reforms Commission V.S Achuthanandan reached Vizhinjam to lend his support to the agitators. However, he could not meet the agitators due to security reasons.

The Deputy Collector, Land Acquisition, who rushed to the spot, to pacify the agitators did not succeed. Following this, District Collector K. Vasuki reached the site and addressed the agitators in the presence of the parish priest and local legislator M. Vincent. Later, at a meeting at the Parish Hall in which the AVLP officials were present, the Collector said that steps would be taken to implement the rehabilitation package. It was decided to set up an expert committee with members of the local community to look into cracks that develop in future and the coastal erosion in the area, which the fisherfolk believe is due to reclamation of the sea for constructing the seaport. Though, following the assurances, a decision was taken to call off the stir.

The residents became more agitated and they laid siege to the parish in large numbers, accusing the committee of colluding with the government authorities to fizzle the agitation. Following this, the parish committee announced by night that they were with the local residents in the agitation and the protests would continue till the government keep every promise regarding rehabilitation packages announced earlier as well as ensuring the safety of residences in the proximity of the works, which were affected by test piling.

Recently Comptroller and Auditor General has observed that interests of Kerala were not protected in the agreement with Adani Ports and SEZ Private Ltd for implementing the Rs7525 crore Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose Seaport project. CAG in its report on public sector undertakings for the year ended March 2016, tabled in the assembly on May 23, said the technical and financial estimates prepared by external consultants were not scrutinised with due diligence resulting in inflation of cost estimates.

“The interests of state government were not protected adequately while drawing up the Concession Agreement”, the report said in its conclusion. Stating that standard concession period for the PPP project was 30 years and by allowing 10 years, extra concession period in the agreement for Vizhinjam, the Concessionaire (Adani Group) would be collecting additional revenue of Rs 29,217 crore, based on revenue estimates in Feasibility Report by Ernst and Young.

Total cost of the project was estimated as Rs7525 crore. On this Rs2454 crore is the investment by Adani group for and Rs1635 the Viability Gap funding of Centre and state and Rs3436 crore by the state. With regard to the financial and economic viability of the project, the report observed that in spite of 67% investment by the state, the financial benefit accruing to the state was not commensurate with its investments.

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