Agri Business

Distressed fisheries sector demands immediate support

AM Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on April 13, 2020

Fishermen are waiting for the lockdown to be lifted to venture out to sea   -  THE HINDU

Close on the heels of the lockdown, fishermen on the east coast are facing the annual fisheries ban, say representatives

The last few weeks of lockdown has been particularly hard for about three crore people dependent on fisheries. Their representatives say that without urgent intervention by the Centre, it will be difficult for them to survive as trawling ban will be implemented on the east coast from Wednesday. They have demanded ₹5,000 per person for fishermen and workers in seafood and fishmeal processing units.

Silent on fisheries

The All India Fishers and Fisheries Workers Federation General Secretary K Hemalata said most of the fishing and related activities are in Maharashtra and Gujarat workers involved there are unorganised. “They don’t have any unions. A lot of migrants are also working in this area. Fish and seafood processing units are also not functioning. They do not have jobs now. Contract workers are not being paid. The Centre has suggested some proposals of easing the lockdown, but it is silent on fisheries and processing units,” she said.

A representative of fishermen in Eranakulam district, Kerala, MB Bharthruhari said the district has 40,000 fish workers and as many workers in allied industries. “Munambam, Vypin and Cochin fishing harbours are shut now. For the last two months, they have been suffering because of the scarcity of fish and secondly due to the lockdown. Over 900 boats operate from Munambam with 10 to 15 workers in each one of it. 500 boats operate from other harbours in the district. The Government has allowed traditional fishing, but just one per cent of the total fish workers are involved in traditional methods. They are also facing difficulty because of the issues in marketing their catch.,” he said.

Surviving on doles

They are surviving on free ration and ₹2,000 provided for fish workers and ₹1,000 for factory workers by the State government. “Over 95 per cent of the factory workers are women. A lot of migrant workers are also involved. Social distancing is not possible in the sector. But the government can regulate the number of workers going in a boat and should allow turn system,” he said.

L Balakrishna, a trade union leader of fishermen in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana said about 70 lakh people, fish workers and their family members, in the State are affected by the lockdown. “ Telangana has inland fishing from 36,000 lakes and ponds. 4,650 fishermen cooperative societies are functional in Telangana. Ponds in Telangana are already dried. The harvest has to happen, fishing activity should start now. The Government had distributed 86 crore fish seeds earlier. They are now weighing two to three kilos. It is the time for fishing. They will face losses worth crores if the activity not started now,” he said.

Kaviraj S, a trade union leader from Udupi said there are about 35,000 workers in fishing and about 20,000 are working in allied sectors in the Karnataka district. “Workers are going through severe crisis. They are facing difficulty in getting even food. There are a lot of migrant workers too in the area. They are here in Udupi. They were working in boats. We are supplying some dry food to the workers. We have also asked the Government to take care of these workers. There are about 17 fishmeal factories in Udupi,” he said.

Migrant workers

M Ramachandran, convenor, Migrant Progressive Workers Union, Gujarat said several lakh people are working in fisheries and salt industry. “At least 70 per cent of the total salt production of the country is from Gujarat. Workers in both the sectors are from minorities, Dalits and backward communities. After lockdown, both the sectors are not functioning. The State government has not done anything than making some announcements. Ration is not provided to them. A lot of migrant workers are also in both the sectors,” he alleged.

Trade Union Centre of India national general secretary Charles George said “We have demanded a fish farming package with ₹5,000 for every fish worker. Market intervention should be done by cooperatives. Procurement with procurement price should be ensured. They brought ₹47,500 crore rupees last year from abroad. They are protein providers. Government should help them when they are in a deep crisis. In Kerala alone, the loss estimated in fisheries sector is estimated ₹3,000 crore. Overall, in India, it will be ₹one lakh crore. No export is taking place. Processing units are also shut,” he said.

Published on April 13, 2020

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