The killing of three fishermen after their fishing boat was rammed by a vessel near Kochi – off Munambam coast in Kerala – raises serious questions about the security of the fisherfolk community.
On the early morning of August 7, the boat that was around 28 nautical miles away from the coast was hit by a vessel which is suspected to be the Mumbai-registered Desh Shakti. The three deceased, who hail from Tamil Nadu, have been identified as Yuganathan (45), Manakudi (50) and Yakub (57). Rest of the 15, who were on board at the time of the accident, have been injured.
National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) said that such accidents have become a regular affair threating the life of the fishermen who are away from the coast for their labour.
Pointing to such incidents, Peter T, general secretary of NFF, said that many people have lost their lives and livelihood in the past few months. Though a series of such incidents have taken place recently, nothing has been done to protect the fishermen.
In January 2017, seven fishermen had been injured after a ship collided with a fishing boat, which was at 65 nautical miles away from the coast. Following this, in June 2017, three died and 11 were injured when a Panama-flagged merchant vessel Amber L hit a fishing boat that was 14 nm off Kochi coast. Again in August 2017, a Hong-Kong-flagged ship rammed at a fishing boat which was 39 nm away from the Kollam coast.
In October 2017, again, an unidentified merchant ship hit a fishing boat that was 50 nm away from Beypore. January 2018 has also seen one such accident: an unidentified vessel hit a fishing boat that was off Kanyakumari.
“As the fishermen have the right to ply their boats up to 200 nm off coasts in Indian waters, it is the duty of the marine enforcement departments and Indian Coast Guard to provide them security. There are facilities to trace the route and location of all ships that are passing by. However, no communique has been passed to the fishermen who were in the waters,” Peter told Newsclick.
“They are not at all concerned about the lives of the people from community. It is an utter injustice to the community. We urge the state and central government to initiate actions against the erring officials,” added Peter.
Read more: “Protect the Fish, Protect the Fishworkers” - World Forum of Fisher People in Delhi
On the other hand, the fishing community across the country have been opposing the draft Coastal Zone Regulation notification that scales back environmental safeguards for the coastlines. The draft stands in violation of Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, which states that the central government shall “… take all such measures that it deems to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution”.
The current CRZ2011 notification mandates that setback zones be demarcated, livelihoods be protected, and unchecked development curtailed. However, the draft CRZ2018 overturns these by removing safeguards and facilitating development, and in return, paves the way for the Sagarmala project.
Sagarmala project, BJP-led Centre’s Rs 8.5 trillion investment initiative, entitles setting up of new mega ports, modernisation of existing ports, development of Coastal Employment Zones and Coastal Employment Units along with port connectivity via road and rail. The fishermen community, however, has been terming it as a conspiracy aiming at the displacement of the community for the corporates.
“Simply, by neglecting the concerns of the community, the Centre wants to create fear among the fishermen community. Thus they try to drive the community from their livelihoods and hand over all the major ports and coastal areas to the corporates. Also, the Centre wants to implement the Sagarmala project without having any resistance from the fishermen community”, pointed out Peter.
Read more: Under BJP, Local Communities Suffer, Private Players Profit at Cost of Environment