By Sumit Kumar Ganguly*
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Gujarat High Court on July 17, 2017 by Govindbhai Ramjibhai Jadav and the others for the establishment of Fishing Harbours and Fish Landing Centre (commonly known as “jetty”) in the villages of Sartanpar Bandar, Chanch Bandar and Sheriyaj Bara in the districts of Bhavnagar, Amreli and Junagadh respectively. In the matter, the High Court bench comprising of Chief Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice Vipul M Pancholi have issued notice to: (i) the Principal Secretary, Panchayat, Rural Housing and Rural Development Department and (ii) the Commissioner of Fisheries of the Government of Gujarat.
The construction of a Fishing Harbour/ Fish Landing Centre has already been sanctioned in these the villages by the governmental authorities. However, the construction for the same has not yet begun. According to the “Guidelines of Central Sector Scheme on Blue Revolution-Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries” of June 2016 issued by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries (Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare), establishment of Fishing Harbours and Fish Landing Centres gets Central financial assistance. The Central Government grants 50% of the approved project cost to State Governments/State agencies as per actual cost.
Establishment of a Fishing Harbour/ Fish Landing Centre has multiple advantages.
(i) The fisherfolk will have the maximum profit if they have bigger boats which have multiple-facilities for storing and catching fish.
(ii) The fisherfolk will not have to move into deeper seas and thereby not entering Pakistan, with better equipment to have the best catch. They can also remain many days in the sea for catching fish when they have enough ration and storing system.
(iii) The women of the fisherfolk will be freed from the burden of carrying the fish, ice, diesel, etc. to and fro in the sea water. There will be no loss of the fish production as it can be easily transported.
(iv) Establishment of Fishing Harbours and Fish Landing Centres will bring overall development in the region. It will enable the construction of toilets, streetlights and other infrastructural facilities in the region, thereby developing the area.
Yet, the Government of Gujarat does not have any specific policy with respect to establishment of Fishing Harbours and Fish Landing Centres at the three places. In fact, a reasonable time has elapsed since the jetty has been sanctioned. The Fisheries Department had informed about the establishment of the Fish Landing Centres on September 5, /2014 for Sartanpar Bandar, on September 2, 2008 for Chanch Bandar, and on June 19, 2015 for Sheriyaj Bara. However, the construction is yet to begin.
The petitioners have sent several representations to various concerned departments of the Gujarat State. However, governmental authorities have failed to act on multiple representations made at various levels of the government that includes office of the Commissioner of Fisheries; Panchayat, Rural Housing and Rural Development Department; Agriculture and Co-operation Department; Assistant Fisheries Director, Bhavnagar; Assistant Fisheries Director, Jafrabad; Deputy Fisheries Director, Veraval and Assistant Fisheries Director, Veraval authorities at the state-level.
On numerous occasions the governmental authorities have just passed the burden of work from one department to the other, but none of the authorities have acted upon the representations made by the villagers. Even the senior officials of the state have just passed the burden to their subordinates and then the file has never been taken up for completion.
The governmental authorities fail to consider that the main occupation of the villagers is fishing. Fishing is the main source of income for the villagers, as the around 80-90% of the population is engaged in the profession of fishing and they earn their bread and butter from this profession. On being repeatedly explained to the governmental authorities they have failed to consider the fact that without the jetty, the life of the fisherfolk is at a disadvantage.
*With Centre for Social Justice. Click HERE to see the petition