THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With barely months remaining for the Lok Sabha polls due next year, the fishing community is planning to put pressure on the mainstream political parties to include the demand for a separate Fisheries Ministry in the election manifesto.
While the National Fish Workers’ Forum (NFF) is planning to launch a nationwide campaign, Kerala Swatantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF) said it will persuade the state unit to take up the issue. Presently, Department of Animal Husbandry Dairying and Fisheries comes under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
“With the 2019 polls just round the corner, NFF has decided to kick-start a nationwide campaign with focus on creating a separate ministry for fisheries,” said T Peter, NFF general secretary.
According to him, the NFF general body meeting to be held at Veraval in Gujarat on January 29-30 will give a final shape to the campaign being planned.“The proposed campaign, which will be launched from Gujarat to West Bengal via Kanyakumari, will begin on March 1 and conclude on March 25. The demand for a separate Fisheries Ministry will top the agenda at the general body meeting,” said Peter.
He said a separate ministry will usher in remarkable changes to the fishers. It could implement several programmes for fishers’ welfare, besides addressing several issues faced by the community in a time bound manner.
According to him, the NFF had received an assurance from Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, if the Congress was voted to power in the coming polls, a separate Fisheries Ministry will indeed be created. On the chances of NFF’s being made the Congress’ election plank, K V Thomas MP told Express, “Rahul Gandhi himself had given such an assurance to the fishers’ delegation. Hence, it will indeed be included in our poll manifesto.”
The fishermen’s demand is perfectly justified since they had encountered natural calamities like the 2004 Indian Ocean tidal tragedy and Ockhi cyclone, K V Thomas said. Also, it will help to boost fish farming and address concerns related to deep-sea fishing.
KSMTF representative S Stephen said a separate ministry will help the fisherfolk to flag concerns, including commissioning of a shipping corridor and alleged cold-shouldering from authorities in times of disaster.
Earlier, Union MoS Agriculture Krishna Raj, while replying to Shashi Tharoor MP in the Lok Sabha, said the Centre found the functioning of the Fishery Division of Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries satisfactory and hence there is no rationale for hiving off a separate Fisheries Ministry.