Western side of Loop Road cleared, fish vendors dump catch on road

Fishers hold meeting, may refrain from venturing into sea in support of affected vendors

Published: 13th April 2023 10:39 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th April 2023 10:39 AM   |  A+A-

Fish dumped on the road by the vendors in protest | P Jawahar

Fish dumped on the road by the vendors in protest | P Jawahar

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  Years of uncertainty over the fate of the fish vendors on the Loop Road once again came to a head on Wednesday morning when officials of the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) and police arrived on the scene to clear encroachments, based on a Madras High Court order.

While authorities asked only those on the Western side to vacate, the fisherfolk protested by dumping fresh catch on the road. “If the sight and smell of us and the fish bothers them so much, let their vehicles run over the very thing that disgusts them,” said Neelavathi, a vendor who has been doing business on the road for over a decade. While most customers stayed away due to the chaos, the vendors were seen trying to sell the fish at whatever price was on offer.

“As long as the catch is fresh, I get up to Rs 100 for half a kg but if it doesn’t sell today we will have to dry the fish and the price drop by less than half. So, we are giving it away for any price we get,” said Kalyani P, who is the sole breadwinner of her family and lives with her son. “I make around Rs 500-600 a day and most of it is spent on my son’s education. Without this, I have no way of financing his education and managing other expenses,” she said. We stand to lose anywhere between Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 a day if the business is ruined, said the fish vendors.

Corporation officials said they were asking only those doing business on one side of the road to shift while those on the other side could continue to do business until August when the construction of the modern fish complex would be completed.

A history of violence
“In 1985, the then government wanted to beautify the beachfront and asked us to vacate. We protested for a month which culminated in the police opening fire and killing seven fishermen. Now, after almost 40 years, they have come for us again,” said K Bharathi, president of the South Indian Fishermen Association.
“We will support any development as long as it carries us with it,” he added.

Fishermen here registered with the Fisheries Co-operative Societies as early as 1945. The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, states that natural markets where street vendors have conducted business for over 50 years shall be declared as heritage markets, and street vendors in such markets shall not be relocated. 

On Wednesday, some food stalls along the stretch were removed. When contacted, a senior corporation official said they have scheduled a stakeholders’ meeting after which the next course of action will be decided. The fishing hamlets, on their part, have scheduled a meeting where the organisers said the fishers will be urged to refrain from going to the sea and join hands in protest until the issue is resolved.


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