A senior member of the Kerala State Fishermen Debt Relief Commission has revealed that fish workers are furious as the government has failed to distribute even a single rupee to the fish workers reeling under debt.
“The relief measure was recommended by the Kerala State Fishermen Debt Relief Commission. Now, fish workers are suspicious that the commission is cheating them by holding ‘fake’ meetings. We do not know when we will be beaten up by the fish workers,” the member told ‘Express’ on conditions of anonymity.
Indicating that the fear is not misplaced, the sitting of the commission in Ernakulam on Wednesday was marked by a mutinous beginning with fish workers expressing their angst.
As pointed out by a member, “if the government does not release the promised funds immediately, government offices will witness similar emotional outbursts”.
According to the Debt Relief Commission Act, the Commission was started in 2009 “for urgent relief to the fishermen who are in distress due to indebtedness”.
The Act acknowledges that “majority of traditional fishermen, earning livelihood by fishing in sea and in inland waters, are now entrapped in great indebtedness” and the commission was entrusted with recommend relief to indebted fishermen after materially analysing the situation. The commission can consider debts up to December 2007.
“The commission has so far recommended `420 crore. The last LDF government distributed `100 crore. The present government has sanctioned `20 crore. But due to technical reasons, the Finance Ministry has not released funds. However, we are conducting sittings in all coastal districts and recommending assistance,” pointed out Justice Hariharan Nair, chairman of the commission. Highly-placed sources in the commission said the Finance Ministry is “inventing reasons” to block fund allocation to one of the highly-deprived social classes in Kerala. According to several development indicators, fish workers are second to Scheduled Tribes in the parameters of deprivation.
“The attitude of the Finance Ministry is disturbing. Majority of the fishermen are indebted. The Ministry should respect recommendations made by the commission,” pointed out AICC secretary V D Satheeshan MLA. In spite of a government moratorium on revenue recovery proceedings till December 2013, banks and other financial institutions are initiating revenue recovery proceedings.