KOCHI: The Central government’s assurance on Tuesday that it will not go by the recommendations of the Dr B Meena Kumari Committee to allow foreign vessels of joint ventures to fish in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), has allayed a major concern of the fishers here, but failed to dismiss their fears altogether.
“We welcome the government’s clarification on foreign vessels. The Union Agriculture Minister and Defence Minister had assured that the Meena Kumari committee report would be shelved, when a delegation of fisher organisations met them last month. It is a victory of the joint struggle. Similarly, the government should also shun the technical committee report on uniform fishing ban,” he said.
“We should take it with a pinch of salt though,” said Charles George, president of Kerala Malsyathozhilali Aikyavedi (TUCI). On the one hand, they reject the recommendations of the Meena Kumari Committee, but the government has not scrapped the order of the November 12 and the public notice on November 28 last year, allowing Letter of Permit (LoP) vessels to enter up to 12 nautical miles in the EEZ. Earlier they were not allowed to enter within 100 nautical miles, he pointed out.
“It seems to be an eyewash, they might reject the whole report, but implement the recommendations through backdoor,” he said, adding that the fishing community will not back off from struggle until these two orders are revoked.
Joseph Xavier Kalappurakkal, the general secretary of Kerala Boat Operators Association, opined that most of the LOP vessels operating in the EEZ are foreign vessels, flashing the Tricolor. Technically, the government is not allowing foreign vessels to fish here, but in effect, our fishery resources continue to be exploited by nearly 100 LoP vessels that are Indian only on paper, he alleged.