Ahead of the Lok Sabha election, the fishing community is gearing up to launch a nation-wide campaign from Kerala raising various demands, including setting up of a separate ministry for fisheries and fishermen welfare.
Fishermen, who form a predominant vote bank of political parties, plan to run their campaign parallel to the political campaigns of various parties in Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andaman Nicobar. The campaign will be launched in Kochi on Wednesday followed by Gujarat on March 10.‘’We want to send a clear signal to the political parties. Demands of the fishing community are often neglected by both Centre and State Governments. The population of fishermen in the country is three crore. Though they are striving and providing nutritious fish as food to 80 per cent of the population of our country at cheap rate, they remain socially, economically and educationally backward. But, in spite of this, fisheries had been included as the fourth portfolio behind agriculture, animal husbandry and dairy under the Ministry of Agriculture since its inception and fishermen’s welfare is continuously being neglected by the authorities concerned,’’ said T Peter, secretary, National Fishworkers Forum (NFF), an umbrella of state-level trade unions in the fishing sector.
NFF leaders had met various political parties, including Congress, BJP, CPM, CPI and AAP in New Delhi last month and submitted a memorandum highlighting various issues of the fishing community. The key demands raised in the memorandum include strict implementation of the ban on coastal sand mining as ordered by the National Green Tribunal, 10 cents of land each to fishermen families for building houses away from the areas prone to sea erosion and ban on destructive fishing gadgets in the Indian territorial waters.
‘’For the agriculture sector, various loans such as cultivation loan, crop loan and gold loan are given through banks and other government financial institutions at 4 per cent interest rate. But, the fisherfolk have to pay an interest rate of 12 per cent for their loans. This interest rate should be made on a par with that in the agriculture sector. Also, all loans availed of by fishermen from banks and cooperative societies should be written off in the event of fishermen suffering damage,’’ Peter added.