MANGALURU: Vinod, a boat owner at Mangaluru is a bitter man. The fishing commenced as usual on August 1 after two months of fishing ban period and his vessel was prepped up for fishing expeditions after spending lakhs of rupees on maintenance. “But things are turning from bad to worst. Ever since fishing started, I have incurred the loss of Rs 20 lakhs and diesel is one among the major components burning a hole in my pocket”, he stated.
Across the coastal Karnataka, the morale of fishing community is all time low. “At Rs 75 per litre, even Rs 6 lakh worth catch is not breaking even. We are incurring a huge loss and altogether the morale of fishermen along the coast of Karnataka is battered”, rues Mohan Bengre, President of Purse-seine boat owners union at Mangaluru.
True to his frustration, each fishing trawler burns 5,000 to 7,000 litres of diesel per trip and fishing industry is one of the major consumers of diesel fuel along Coastal Karnataka. As of now, the trawlers are consuming 4,000 to 5,000 litres of diesel because they are not sailing farther and most of them return catching pink perches and cuttlefish which are going for export. “If the diesel price continues to soar, we are going to suffer even more since we have to spend 7,000 to 8,000 litres of diesel in the month of November and December when fishing turns to its peak”, Vinod reasoned.
Unlike other sectors which can set-off this diesel price hike on their commodities, fishing has no such luxury, says Dayananda Suvarna, fishermen leader at Malpe in Udupi district. “Our catch is priced by the buyers and they do not give more because diesel price is high. Moreover, the buyers procure fish from various centres across the coast and they don’t mind switching over to areas whey they get fish at lower prices. Ultimately we have to suffer in the end”, he said.
Considering their dependence on diesel, the state government provides a relief of sales tax exemption on diesel, a reduction of Rs 9 per litre. Based on their horsepower and boat length, a fishing boat may be entitled to this subsidy on 70 - 300 litres diesel per day. “We won’t get this subsidy at the counter and procure diesel at the original rate. The sales tax exemption had to be claimed later producing the receipts online”, says Mohan Bolashettykar, a fisherman leader from Karwar in Uttara Kannada.