Across the 13 coastal districts of Tamil Nadu, fishing is banned for 45 days every year between October and December to support fish breeding. In this period, the state government provides a stipend of Rs 5,000 for fishermen to compensate them financially.
This year, however, the ban has been imposed in summer, beginning from April 15 and for a longer period of 61 days. Neither the extended period of ban, nor the ban in summer has gone down well in the fishing communities.
They are also unhappy with being granted the same Rs. 5,000 stipend even though the ban is for a longer period. The stipend is provided only to 33,000 fishermen who go to sea, and not for those engaged in other allied work, especially for the women in the community.
Moreover, they could not go fishing for more than four months during the COVID-19 lockdown, which had badly affected their livelihoods.
Talking to NewsClick about the ban, Veera Arun from the Tamil Nadu Fisherman Workers’ Association (TNFWA) said, “The central government wanted to generalise the ban period, so the existing 45 days was extended to 61 days by the AIADMK government. The Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar, who also hails from a fishing community in Kasimedu, Chennai has ensured the implementation.”
‘CENTRAL, STATE GOVTS MUST SHOW CONCERN’
R Loganathan, an office bearer of the TNFWA, said, “Before the corona outbreak, the fishing ban was only for 45 days, now they have increased it for 61 days. But, they continue to provide the same Rs 5,000 as compensation, how is this acceptable, especially with the inflated prices?” The Association is demanding an increased stipend of Rs 10,000, he added.
Anbarasu, a fisherman from Uthandi, Chennai, told NewsClick, “We are asking the government to provide at least Rs 8,000 stipend, Rs. 5,000 is too little. We will place our demand to whichever party forms the government. Only if we work, we have food on our plates, if we are not allowed to go fishing, the government has to compensate us well for it.”
Also read: Tamil Nadu Fishermen Face Double Whammy as Fishing Ban Follows Lockdown
The disastrous Ockhi, Gaja and Buveri cyclones had struck the coast when the northeast monsoon came. The sea remains calm in April and May. Banning fishing during the calm season and allowing it when the cyclones are common, affects the safety of fishermen, observed some fishermen.
Fishermen are demanding revocation of the decision and to push the ban to the cyclone period, that is to the year end. During the cyclones, fishing is anyway banned across the eastern districts.
Though the claim from the government side is that the majority of fish breeding takes place in the summer season, Veera Arun said that “nothing has been provided scientifically to explain the period of ban”.
Six thousand speed boats will not be allowed to go to the sea during this period. The ban does not stand for vessels without motors, such as catamarans and fibre boats, that do not go beyond 4 to 5 nautical miles.
‘PROVIDE MONETARY SUPPORT, SUBSIDISE DIESEL’
During the ban period, fishermen engage in boat construction, renovation and maintenance work, but this year they are pressed for funds because of lack of income during the lockdown period. Fishermen are demanding the government to provide monetary support for maintenance work.
In certain districts, they are asking for Rs. 2 lakh funds for boat renovation work. While some are demanding it as compensation, others are asking as loan to be paid back without interest.
Given the hike in fuel prices, workers engaged in fishing are additionally demanding diesel subsidy.
Loganathan said, “Prior to COVID-19, the price of diesel was around Rs 67 per litre, now it has gone up by Rs 20… This is not feasible for fishermen.”
“There is little unity in demands across the state. The fisheries minister also has owners of mechanised vessels under his control, making it further difficult to organise workers,” said Veera Arun.
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