By Robancy A Helen
Every year on November 21, people around the world observe World Fisheries Day to show solidarity with all fishermen, fish farmers, and other stakeholders.
There are so many messages going viral in WhatsApp groups felicitating each other for World Fisheries Day.
Commemorating this special day, the Indian government organized the Global Fisheries Conference India 2023, at Ahmadabad, Gujarat, under the theme ‘Celebrating Fisheries and Aquaculture Wealth.’
“World Fisheries Forum,” with representatives from 18 nations and a proclamation calling for an international mandate of sustainable fishing practices and policies, called for a conference in New Delhi in 1997. It paved the way to remember the fishermen and to celebrate a day for them.
India is the world’s third-biggest fish producer, second-largest aquaculture producer, largest shrimp producer, and fourth-largest seafood exporter, accounting for 8% of worldwide fish production.
The lives of poor fishermen are insecure, poor, and disadvantaged. Like in many other professions, the one who works hard does not have the freedom to decide the price of the fish. According to the fishermen in Tamil Nadu, the Sri Lankan government kidnapped a lot of fishermen and kept them as hostages.
Their lives are always at risk. Unlike other professions, fishermen must risk their lives to feed their families. They fall prey to floods and cyclones.
The southern coastal villages became victims of a tsunami in the year 2004. Many lives were lost, and people became paupers within a day. The government does not safeguard their lives.
The day-wage fishermen, at times, do not get a penny and must fully depend on the sea. Their secluded life in villages makes them fully dependent on the land. These villages have experienced lots of deaths. But their faith and generosity have always grown, irrespective of their loss.
Marking the silver jubilee of World Fisheries Day, the All-India Fishermen Council has submitted a nineteen-point memorandum to R.N. Ravi, the honorable governor of Tamil Nadu.
The translated version from Tamil is given below:
“We undergo immense pain and suffering in this country. We have numerous untold sad stories. The fishermen in India do not have proportionate representation in politics. We wish that you would recommend to the state and the Union government the plight of the fishermen in this country,” says Anton Gomez, the president of the All-India Fishermen Council.
The traditional fishermen, who are backward in education and economy and without political representation, are unable to seek justice. They should be added to the Scheduled Tribe list.
The contribution of fishermen to India’s total production (GDP) will be 1% of 3.18 lakh USD in 2021. That means the fisherman’s share is 2.54 lakh crore rupees. The foreign exchange earned from seafood exports is USD 6.68 billion. * 46,663 crores in Indian value It accounts for 4.1% of global seafood exports and 19% of India’s total agricultural exports.
15% of the traditional fishermen’s catch is used for export and 85% for the domestic market, providing low-cost protein-rich food to the people. It contains 1.9 tons of fish and other seafood. Its value is Rs 57.9 crore. Considering the great contribution of the fisheries sector to the well-being of traditional fishermen, the Indian budget should allocate 2.54 lakh crore rupees annually. But in 2021–22, 1360 crore rupees and 1624.18 crore rupees in 2022–23 have been allocated.
Our study revealed that in 2021–22, 925.5 crore rupees will have gone to the state governments through the PMMSY scheme (Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana). A mere 0.0053% of the funds are allocated to the fisheries sector based on the GDP contribution from the central budget, and the funds go to administrative expenses, research, and training institutes. The government is not serious about promoting the traditional fishing industry by providing financial support.
More than 2 crore Indians are directly and indirectly involved in the traditional fishing industry and related activities. Encouraging the traditional fishing industry, which provides the protein requirements of the country’s population and provides a large amount of employment, will help prevent the increase in unemployment. Therefore, based on the contribution of fishermen to GDP, the budget should be allocated to the fisheries sector.
By allocating a small portion of the foreign exchange that the fishermen generate for the welfare of the fishermen, the government should attempt to increase the nation’s income. As a part of it, the Fisherman Pension Scheme should be implemented.
Unlike the removal of road tax and green tax, which are not related to the diesel used by fishermen, and providing free electricity to farmers, considering the contribution of fishermen to the national income, we should remove excise duty and provide diesel at the production price.
Good Service Tax (GST) should be exempted for fishing equipment and boat-building-related matters.
To promote deep sea fishing, avoid laws that create an environment where the fishermen wander behind the authorities unnecessarily, provide bank loans at 90% subsidy with 4% interest, fishing boats, nets, and equipment only to traditional fishermen, and prevent the entry of corporations. On the same basis, additional incentives should also be provided to country boat and timber fishermen.
Boats should be mortgaged and loaned, just as vehicles are mortgaged. Boats should be insured, just as vehicles are. Strict action should be taken against the insurance companies that refuse this.
A new insurance scheme for fishermen should be implemented, with government contributions and premium payments.
Private ports under the Sagar Mala scheme should be banned. Based on the 2011 recommendation of a four-member committee headed by Professor M.S. Swaminathan called The Final Frontier, the recommendation to consider using the existing ports with full force should be implemented.
Tamil Nadu’s recent planning to set up wind turbines in coastal areas from Kanya Kumari to Nagapattnam, mineral mines from Nagai to Cuddalore, clearance to corporates in offshore areas for hydrocarbon projects, 6000 acres each in Thiruvallur district coast, ocean, and Pazhaverkadu lake, 6000 acres each, a 99-year lease should be prevented, to protect the sea area up to 12 nautical miles according to CRZ (IV), and establish the rights of fishermen.
Instead of sacrificing the fishermen to corporations by abandoning closed-sea fishing, the programs of the central and state governments must protect and encourage the livelihood of the traditional fishermen.
Fishermen should be given priority and separate reservations in maritime jobs and education.
As fishermen work as seafarers as an alternative to fishing, which is the profession of fishermen, traditional fishermen should have the basic qualifications to get the CDC (continuous discharge certificate) given to work on commercial ships.
We request that a separate unit be established in the Union Ministry of Shipping to help seafarers with issues such as loss of life, compensation for bodily injury, and denial of due wages to the seafarers in commercial vessels, foreign fishing vessels, etc.
Most of the Indian sailors are from Tuticorin. As they are required to study different courses related to sailing, they must travel between Chennai and Mumbai. While doing this on their holidays, they must be away from their families and depend on them for expenses. Thoothukudi has the Tamil Nadu Maritime Academy (TNMA), run by the Tamil Nadu government, but lacks many of the required courses.
Even though TNMA is ready to start many sections, including PSCRP and advanced firefighting, which are essential for today, the Directorate General of Shipping (Govt of India) did not approve their many attempts and petitions to many ministers. We would like to direct the Department of Shipping, D.G. Shipping, to approve it without delay.
Also, Saloon rating for Rantings; advanced modular courses for officers and engineers; GME (Graduate Marine Engineering) for marine and mechanical engineers; MEO classes 4, 2, and chief; Diploma in nautical science; B.Sc. in nautical science; Second Mate and Chief Courses, including mate courses for officers, through TNMA or a separate organization * Starting at Thoothukudi and helping the southern fishing community of more than 20,000 seafarers, we would like to recommend D.G. Shipping through the Union Ministry of Shipping.
As many countries, including the US and Brazil, have made it mandatory for seafarers to get an SID (seafarer’s identity card), Chennai must approach the MMD (Mercantile Marine Department) to get it. This leads to wasteful movement and increases the cost of materials. To avoid this, the MMD office in Thoothukudi works in parallel with the MMD in Chennai, Visakhapatnam, etc. to get a SiD card, and many exams conducted by MMD can be written in Thoothukudi without any hassle.
More than 500 people have been killed to date in the shelling of the Sri Lankan Navy, which started in 1983, as a result of the surrender of Katcha Island (Kachchatheevu) to Sri Lanka. There is a history of loss of limbs, months of jail time, loss of boats, loss of bodies, and loss of the victim’s families without compensation.
These are among the biggest human rights abuses in the world. Kachchha Island should be returned on the grounds of breach of contract, which violated the Indian border and killed Indian citizens. We must cancel the alteration of our maritime boundaries without the mandate of the people and restore our traditional fishing rights.
To rehabilitate the families of fishermen killed by the Sri Lanka Navy, the government should establish an organization akin to the War Victim Board, survey the affected parents, widows, and children, and suggest that the central government provide rehabilitation, relief, education, and employment.
Fishermen are the indigenous people of Tuticorin. The role of fishermen in the development of Thoothukudi city, port, education, and industry is significant. Their role in the War of Independence was unparalleled. But that history has been completely obscured and distorted. In that way, one of the first sculptors who created Tuticorin, known as the city father by the people of Tuticorin, served as the president of the city council five consecutive times.
Until today, he has made many achievements, including the Valla Nadu Drinking Water Project, which quenches the thirst of the people of Tuticorin as a service to the people. We urge the central government to name the Chennai airport after Mr. Cruz Fernandes and the railway station after Mr. J.L.P. Roach Victoria to keep the memory of these history-loving people alive.
Freedom fighter Egugadalthurai Pandyapati Ayya Thermaran was the one who brought together the peasants against the British in Kadalgudi and made a joint declaration of the peasants against the British. He also brought the necessary ammunition, guns, and cannons from foreign countries to his port through his ships to wage war against the British and gave them to the Umaithurai and Marudu brothers through sea harriers who stood in front of the freedom war.
Similarly, he died in 1808 AD without surrendering to the British until the end. Therefore, we implore the central government to rename the Pandyapati-owned old port in Thoothukudi, which the government shipping corporation is still using, Freedom Fighter Pandyapati Thermaran Port*.
On this auspicious occasion of World Fisherman’s Day, we ask that the Central and State Governments, as the voice of the voiceless fishermen, convey our above demands to remove the 77 years of misery of the fishermen in independent India.
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