As fishing ban period ends in TN, fishers accuse officials of demanding bribe for licences

While fishermen from Thoothukudi and Vembar harbours operate trawlers for daily fishing, Tharuvaikulam fishermen set sail in gillnetters for deep-sea and multi-day fishing, said sources.
With the fish ban period ending, fisherman load drinking water and get ready to sail at Thoothukudi fishing harbour.
With the fish ban period ending, fisherman load drinking water and get ready to sail at Thoothukudi fishing harbour. (Photo | V.KARTHIK ALAGU, EPS)

THOOTHUKUDI: As mechanised fishing vessels are set to venture into sea on Saturday, following the conclusion of the fishing ban period on Friday, fishermen have complained about officials seeking bribes to renew licences and lack of service centres for satellite phones.

Following the end of 61 days of fishing ban, over 240 mechanised vessels from Thoothukdui fishing harbour will go back to sea, 200 from Tharuvaikulam fishing harbour, and 70 from Vembar fishing harbour. While fishermen from Thoothukudi and Vembar harbours operate trawlers for daily fishing, Tharuvaikulam fishermen set sail in gillnetters for deep-sea and multi-day fishing, said sources.

Amid excitement of returning to fishing, a fisherman said that fisheries officials are demanding hefty bribes to renew licences. "Even though licences of most vessels are valid till 2027, the officials are charging a `3,000/boat for a clean chit," he said. Another fisherman of Tharuvaikulam fishing harbour, said the satellite phones that were provided to them at a subsidised rate in 2020 are in disuse. "The state and the central governments had provided satellite phones in the aftermath of the Ockhi cyclone in 2017. It may be noted that satellite phones are useful to communicate at sea during emergencies," he said.

The only private service centre based in Chennai had stated that the satellite phones are non-repairable due to unavailability of spares from BSNL, said another fisherman. "The state government must provide services for the phones," appealed Churchill, president of Tharuvaikulam fishermen's association.

When asked, Fisheries Department Joint Director Kasinatha Pandian said the department will take actions following the submission of written complaints with evidence. He added that he had not received any about satellite phones. When contacted, District Collector G Lakshmipathy did not respond.

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