After years of faltering on its footsteps, the state government has finally got its act together on the collection of cess from the marine exporters.
The government has shot off notices to the marine exporters in the state asking them to fall into line and pay up the amount pending against each of them.
The move is expected to bring in crores of rupees for the ailing Kerala Fishermen’s Welfare Fund Board (KFWFB).
The marine exporters in the state are obliged to pay one per cent of their annual turnover as cess into the KFWFB.
But though the Act to collect the cess, the Kerala Fishermen’s and Allied Workers Welfare Cess Act, was passed way back in 2007, the collection was hindered due to legal tangles and court appeals.
But even though some of the litigation on the issue are still being pursued by individual players, the state government has started to go forward with the cess.
“The government has taken a serious note of the defaulting of the cess by the marine exporters. The Fisheries Department has sent notices to the exporters to pay up the cess pending against them. Action will be taken against the defaulters,” said Minister of Fisheries K Babu.
As of now the KFWFB is supported only by the contributions of the fishermen. But with their incomes on an average being low, the welfare programmes of the board has largely been lowkey.
“The board can hardly be sustained under the present circumstances. The funds coming in are low and hence it’s increasingly difficult to perform even the basic functions. If the cess is collected effectively, we can make radical changes and take up various welfare schemes,” said a senior Fisheries Department official.
Meanwhile, the fisherman’s unions in the state have said that further delay in the collection of the cess will not be tolerated.
“The state government has been teaming up with the exporters to delay the court cases and thereby put off the collection of the cess. When the government demands a sum of Rs 1,000 from an ordinary fishermen for the fund, why are the exporters being exempted for years together? This year, the marine export turnover in the country is ` 12,000 crore.
So such exemptions can’t be tolerated any longer.
The fishermen will conduct protest rallies against each of the exporter who refuses to pay up,” said the secretary of the Kerala Fisheries Coordination Committee, Charles George.