The National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), in a letter to Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Shipping, Government of India, has demanded quick and stern action against those responsible in the killing of 12 fishermen in Kochin. Text of the letter:
As you might already know that the early morning hours of 7th August, three fishermen died while nine went missing after a ship carrying oil rammed into the boat off the coast near Kochi. The oil tanker rammed into their boat while all the fishermen were fishing and they were in no way forewarned of the other’s presence.
According to sources, three different ships passed the area around the same time. One of them hit the boat and then gained speed and fled away from the scene, not rescuing the fishermen who fell into the water. We at National Fishworkers Forum condemn this act of intentional disregard for the life of fellow human beings. The vessel not only crashed into the boat it didn’t even rescue the fishermen whose lives it endangered. The people on board the tanker should take full responsibility of their actions and should be charged as such.
This isn’t the first time that such an occurrence has taken place. In the past few years, many fishermen have lost their lives at sea because private ships rammed into their boats, or, in one case, they were shot at because two Italian marines mistook them to be pirates and other such cases. Fishermen have the right to take their boats up to 200 nautical miles in the sea, however, the central and state authorities have made no efforts to ensure their protection while they take their boats out. Most of the fishermen who have lost their lives come from small traditional fishing communities and their need to survive takes them out to far lengths in the sea. The authorities need to protect them and their livelihood.
We represent fishing communities and their unions across the country and we demand the following:
- State/Central authorities should identify the ship immediately. The captain of the tanker and the owner should be booked for the crime they committed and should additionally be charged for not stopping to rescue the fishermen.
- The central and state authorities need to employ a system of protection for such fishermen, like coast guards and Marine Enforcements patrolling common fishing areas.
- The Deputy Director General of Lighthouses and Light shipping in Kochin has the ability to track each registered ship that passes through the coast, they were obviously able enough to track the location of the oil tanker, so why didn’t they raise any alarm? The officials who ignored the incident should be booked under extreme negligence.
Signatories: Narendra R Patil, chairperson, and T Peter, general secretary, NFF