Kollam (Kerala), Feb 19 (PTI) Senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala on Friday alleged corruption in an agreement inked by the state-owned KSINC with a US-based firm for a deep sea fishing project and said it would affect the interest of fishermen community, a charge rejected as 'baseless' by the LDF government.

The Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly alleged corruption involving Rs 5,000 crore in the agreement with EMCC International and the company had been allowed deep sea fishing.

"The Kerala government has decided to enter into an agreement with an American company for deep sea fishing. It's in gross violation of the rights of the fishermen in Kerala. Without discussing in the Cabinet or the Left front, how can the government move forward with such a step," he asked, at a press meet here.

State Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma asserted the allegations were baseless and devoid of any merit, saying Chennithala was speaking of an "imaginary contract" while the government has not allowed deep sea fishing.

The Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) has recently inked a pact with EMCC International for a deep sea fishing project worth Rs 2,950 crore.

The project envisages building 400 deep sea fishing trawlers for fishing communities and port development activities, among others.

Alleging that it was a corrupt deal, Chennithala appealed to the Pinarayi Vijayan government not to proceed with the project, saying it will adversely affect lakhs of fishermen.

"There is a shortage of fish in the sea. How the government has come into an agreement with an American company for deep sea fishing. This is against the interest of fishermen. This is a corrupt one and a high-level committee should probe the matter," he said.

Responding to questions from reporters on Chennithala's charges, Mercykutty Amma said:"These are baseless allegations and have no merit. The opposition leader is speaking of an imaginary contract. No agreement has been signed by the government to allow fishing by the US firm," she added.

The Minister said only the Centre can permit deep sea fishing by a foreign company and the state government will not take any steps affecting the fishermen community.

KSINC will provide technical help and give full responsibility to EMCC to build the trawlers. The cost of building a trawler of international quality and standards was estimated to be around Rs two crore.

The 400 trawlers to be built will be handed over to the fishermen of the state. The corporation will be building new harbours and renovating the existing ones to accommodate these trawlers, considering the shortage of berthing facilities for these trawlers, she added.

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