KOCHI: Who looks after the safety of around two lakh fishermen from Kerala who go for fishing in the deep sea. To say the truth, they have only God to look after them. Because, when they set out for fishing they are not provided with any safety equipment.
Earlier, there was a Central Government scheme to provide safety equipment at subsidised rates. But, it has been stopped now, it is learnt. Activists in the fishing sector point out that it is important to supply life-saving equipment like lifebuoys, life jackets and life raft to the fishermen/boats free of cost/subsidised rates.
Recently, the Tamil Nadu Fishermen Development Trust submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister regarding this. Also, a debate is currently on in Karnataka on the issue. It is high time the State looked into the matter seriously.
“Only God can save the lives of the fishermen in Kerala, who go to the deep seas, if something unfortunate happens to them, as they are not provided with any safety equipment. Most of the boats from Kerala spend around 2-4 weeks in the sea, which increases the chances of unexpected incidents. The State Government should take steps to ensure the safety of the fishermen folk,” said Swatantra Malsyatozhilali Centre president Lal Koyiparambil.
The total population of fishermen in the State is around 11 lakh, including nine lakh in the marine sector and two lakh in the inland sector. Of this, the number of active fishermen is 1.5-2 lakh. Currently, there are 222 fishing villages in the marine sector and 113 in the inland sector, as estimated by the Fisheries Department. At present, around 6 lakh tonne of fishes are produced in the State every year.
“Keeping in mind the safety of the fishermen who go to the deep sea, it is important to supply life-saving equipment free of cost or at subsidised rates to them. Life jackets to the fishermen and life raft to the boats should be provided. It shall be made mandatory that life-saving equipment be kept in the boats for getting licence,” said P Justin Antony, founder president of the Tamil Nadu Fishermen Development Trust and an activist in the sector.
Commenting on the issue, Fisheries Minister K Babu said that life-saving equipment were distributed to fishermen in the past, under a Central Government scheme. “But, it was stopped for want of fund. I will have to examine the details,” he said.