Agri Business

Matsya Sampada Yojana fails to cheer fishermen

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on September 11, 2020

Fisheries sector has sought interest waiver on the existing loans which has been denied in the package   -  Kamal Narang

The ₹20,000-crore package under PM Matsya Sampada Yojana has failed to bring cheers to Kerala’s fisher-folk, as they view the announcement as a “political gimmick eyeing the ensuing Bihar polls”.

Charles George, president of the Kerala Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi, told BusinessLine that Bihar is not a fish-producing State and the government has totally neglected the coastal States that are focussed in deep sea fishing and inland water fishery. The fisheries sector in the country is labour-intensive and the government should look at the concern of the producing community while focussing on increasing production. “Instead of corporatisation of the sector, we bat for co-operatisation for an inclusive overall development of all stakeholders”, he said. The Prime Minister launched the scheme in 21 States on Thursday by inaugurating facilities in Patna, Purnia, Sitamarhi, Madhepura, Kishanganj and Samastipur to provide new infrastructure, modern equipment and access to new markets for fish producers apart from more opportunities for farming.

A leading seafood exporter said that the declaration would benefit only North Indian states and ignores coastal States in providing the requisite needs for the sector. The immediate requirement for the crisis-ridden seafood export sector is working capital as Covid-19 lockdown has battered the entire value chain with declining product value, dwindling sales in the overseas markets coupled with a fishing ban etc.

The sector has sought interest waiver on the existing loans in the lockdown period which has been denied in the package. The seafood fraternity also demanded to raise the MEIS benefits to remain competitive in the export market. The request for giving subsidies for ESI insurance schemes has also turned down.

Guidelines missing

Joseph Xavier Kalapurackal, General Secretary of All Kerala Mechanised Boat Owners Association, termed the announcement as “old wine in a new bottle”. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced the scheme under Atmanirbhar package without giving any guidelines in availing the benefits. “We are of the view that several initiatives such as deep sea exploration, upgrading fish landing centres, marketing efforts by avoiding middlemen etc can be done with required guidelines, which is still missing in the new announcement,” he said.

The abundant fish resources in the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean have always prompted foreign trawlers including the Chinese to poach in Indian waters. To tap the resources, he said that the government should take efforts to curb fishing by foreign trawlers and allow Indian crafts to fish outside the EEZ as was done in major countries.

Anil Tharayath Vargehse, Secretariat of National Fishworkers Forum, said that PMMSY was designed to attract investments and it expects existing players to diversify into culture based fisheries across production and supply chain. But fish workers are concerned as the support towards their livelihood in the scheme is minimal, if not merely token. The high financial investments in the sector would be subject to fluctuations in global market conditions. Large scale changes on land and water upon privatisation of public systems would expect to create permanent damages to fragile economies.

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Published on September 11, 2020
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