National Fisheries Policy should contain fishermen’s voice: NFF General Secretary

V Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on May 04, 2020 Published on May 04, 2020

Fish workers across the economic spectrum ― from large-scale mechanised fleets to small-scale fishers ― have suffered an economic blow due to the lockdown   -  KK Mustafah

The National Fish Workers Forum (NFF) has taken strong exception to the Union Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries’s move to upload the draft National Fisheries Policy (NFF) on its website without holding consultations with stakeholders in the sector.

Reiterating its demand for such a policy covering sectors like inland, marine, aquaculture and post-harvest, NFF pointed out that the draft has been hurriedly published even as it is an intense process requiring consultations with fish workers’ organisations. It is highly improbable that the response to the draft reflect the needs and demands of the stakeholders, as individuals and organisations are unable to physically meet and consult during the lockdown period, said T Peter, General Secretary, NFF.

“It is unfortunate that during the period of the coronavirus pandemic, we see that the National Fisheries Development Board is calling for comments from stakeholders on the draft National Fisheries Policy, 2020 without any kind of order and uploaded (the same) on their website,” Peter said.

Moreover, the draft is in English. However, the procedure which has been followed in all policy matters is that such drafts are translated into the regional /vernacular language(s). It should be made accessible to all and a specific time period given, he added.

As consultation is the backbone of national policy making, NFF has demanded that the draft policy should be put on hold, given the physical distancing rules and lack of mobility during these times of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Narendra R Patil, Chairperson, NFF, the immediate priority for the Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries is to extend financial assistance to fish workers and all larger policy changes in the sector should be put on hold. “The financial losses in the sector should be addressed and later decided upon according to the policy direction ahead,” Patil said.

He pointed out that fish workers across the economic spectrum ― from large-scale mechanised fleets to small-scale fishers ― have suffered an economic blow due to the lockdown. NFF has urged the government to pay a monthly allowance of ₹15,000 up to three months in advance as part of an economic package. The government should also develop a relief package in consultation with fish worker organisations.

The marine capture fisheries is already a stressed sector; the loss of fish has created a dent in the economy and food security for a number of people. The share of the fisheries sector in India’s GDP was about 1.03 per cent or ₹1.75-lakh crore in 2017-18. It accounts for about 6.58 per cent of India’s agriculture GDP. The sector provides livelihood to about 1.6 crore fishers and fish farmers at the primary level and almost twice the number along the value chain.

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Published on May 04, 2020
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