Need of the hour: Bifurcate India’s agricultural ministry, create separate ministry for fisheries and fishermen welfare

fishThe National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), at its annual general body meet on December 19-20 at Youth Hostel, Vishakapattnam, Andhra Pradesh, passed a resolution demanding that the Government of India should abandon all proposals for fresh commercial ports. The statement comes in the wake of growing protest against Vizhinjam Port in Kerala. Representatives from various member organizations of all the coastal states and Union Territories participated in the two days meet. Excerpts:

The process used by committee constituted by Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, to draft a new National Marine Fisheries Policy in getting the opinion of the communities is not acceptable. We oppose the very constitution of it, as it does not have representation of the fisher communities.

With a questionnaire in a ‘Yes/No’ format, one cannot elicit the opinion in the fullest form. Public consultation of the fisher community at the district level in all the coastal states is the only way to get effective opinion of the communities. The representation from the organizations of the fisher community, preferably with the nationalist perspective is a must in the drafting committee to enable it to be effective. With the need to have these demands incorporated, the deadline for feedback shall be extended sufficiently.

Bifurcation of the agricultural ministry and creating a separate ministry for fisheries and fishermen welfare at the Union government is the need of the hour. Even BJP has accepted it as a reasonable demand, by having it mentioned in their policy paper for the fisher communities, while the previous UPA government did not accept it.

We demand that all the fisher communities living in India shall be enlisted as Scheduled Tribes. Fisher community should be included in the list of ST, as been recommended by the Mandal Commission. It will not only ensure reservation for education and employment, but also will have reservation of constituencies in various elected bodies including state assemblies and the parliament.

We demand that all commercial ports proposed should be given up. There should not be any move to build more commercial ports, as already existing ports are underutilized.

The issue arising out of harassment to the fishermen crossing the border and entering the neighbouring country such as India and Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan and India and Bangladesh while fishing should be immediately resolved, through bilateral and consistent dialogue process. All the boats confiscated and not given back so far should be immediately handed over to the fishermen and those who are incarcerated shall be released with immediate effect.

The seismic survey done in the seas in the western part of the country in the fishing grounds are causing immense hardship to the fishermen of the region and therefore should be immediately stopped.

We demand total ban on destructive fishing practices such as purse seine, bottom trawling, line trawling, pair trawling, twin trawling, bull trawling and the high speed trawling. Also, we seek to avoid overexploitation of fish resources in the territorial waters and the EEZ of India.

We oppose all power generation project proposed to be established in the coastal region, both nuclear and thermal power plants. We do not want the coastal belt to be made the power generation hub of India at the cost of the fisher communities.

Subsistence allowance should be given to every fisher community family that is affected by any fishing ban such as breeding season ban, lean season ban etc. We demand the Government of India that the fishermen should be given the subsistence allowance at the rate of Rs. 500 per head per day. This will include days of natural calamities as compensation for livelihood. Compensation for damages to the habitat and equipments is different from livelihood allowances. We demand in case of disaster as climate change refugee status and demand compensation accordingly.

In cases where the fishermen are prevented from fishing for a consistent long period such as in marine protected areas, no ban should be implemented if such compensation is not paid 90 days ahead of it.

On CRZ: All developments including establishments are happening on reclaimed land, which is Coastal Regulation Zone. This is illegal and unacceptable. We want all efforts for such CRZ violations by the government such as Comparel in Mumbai be given up. Industrial corridors in both the west and east coast are going to affect the fisher community. We demand that the fisher community concerned is consulted before any development project is taken up.

Action Plan

  1. A Fishermen March towards parliament organized by National Fishworkers Forum is planned to be held in Delhi pressing these demands. It will be held on 10th March 2016, Thursday, during the parliament budget session.
  2. National Fishworkers’ Forum and Delhi Solidarity Group are jointly organizing a seminar on “Proposed amendment to the environment laws and it’s impact to the fishermen communities” will be held on 9th March at New Delhi.
  3. It is decided to have a triennial national conference of NFF to be held in Tamilnadu on 8th to 10th of December 2016.

Statement drafted by M Ilango, Chairperson, NFF, and T Peter, National Secretary, NFF

 

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