‘Goa fishing jetty used to illegally land Pakistani nationals’January 22nd, 2009 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS
Panaji, Jan 22 (IANS) In a sensational disclosure, the chairman of the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) has alleged fishermen working out of a jetty located within the port premises often illegally ferried Pakistani nationals from international merchant ships to the Goan shores and vice versa. In a detailed article published simultaneously in several regional dailies, MPT chairman Praveen Agarwal said the Khariwado fishing jetty located at Berth No 11 at the port was a serious security concern to the state of Goa and the country.
“Instances of Pakistani seamen employed on international merchant ships being ferried by Khariwado fishing trawlers and boats to the shore have been frequently reported, even though this is expressly prohibited by law,” Agarwal said in the article, which has stirred a political controversy here.
“There is a strong likelihood that the Khariwado fishing jetty could easily be used for illegal and anti-national activities,” the article titled ‘MPT compelled to close Khariwado jetty for security reasons,’ said.
The MPT chairman’s comments assume significance in light of the 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai. Goa was on a terror alert throughout December, after reports of a repeat strike in the coastal resort state during the tourist season.
Agarwal further states in his article that there are others who share his concerns. “Merchant ships have reported to the international shipping community that owing to this, their ships are in extremely insecure condition while (berthed) at Mormugao Port.”
He further said the Khariwado slums have been notorious for smuggling and illegal activities for the last 30 years.
The central home ministry, Intelligence Bureau (IB), Director General (Shipping) - the statutory authority for implementing the International Ships and Ports Facility (ISPF) code in India, as well as various committees set up to improve security and safety measures at Indian ports - had all recommended the immediate relocation of the fishing jetty outside the sensitive Vasco Bay, he said.
The MPT chairman said that the state government’s inability to give the Khariwado villagers an alternative location for setting up a jetty was the reason why the MPT is now fearing loss of business.
“Earlier, the MPT had obtained all clearances - except for government of Goa’s approval - and even raised funds of Rs.15 crore (Rs.150 million) for construction of a new fishing jetty at Gina Penta, Chicalim. It was only because the state government did not give its consent to the proposed location, that the MPT had to shelve the project,” he claimed, adding that the cost today had risen to nearly Rs.35 crore (Rs.350 million).
Speaking to IANS on Thursday, state Revenue Minister Jose Phillip D’Souza, who is also a leader of the Khariwado fishermen’s community ridiculed Agarwal’s claim, saying that the MPT has been trying to displace fishermen from Khariwado under the guise of terror.
“He cannot close the jetty just like that. Who does he think he is?” D’Souza said, adding the fishermen would move out of Khariwado only if they were provided with a full fledged jetty.
“The MPT has been promising a jetty. But they have never kept their promise,” he said.
Urban Development Minister Joaquim Alemao also supported D’Souza. “The fishermen will not leave Khariwado until the new jetty is constructed. There will be a state-wide agitation if the MPT evicts the people there,” he said.