Livelihood under strain, rue fisherfolk; seek government support
Even as they have almost completed their annual mending works they look forward to government’s assistance on various challenges they are reportedly facing.
TIRUCHY: The fishermen of the East Coast, who are getting ready for a fresh venture after 61 days of annual fishing ban which ends on June 14, have raised multiple demands with the government. Even as they have almost completed their annual mending works they look forward to government’s assistance on various challenges they are reportedly facing.
As the engine power of fishing boats has increased over the years they have appealed to the government to increase the quantity of the subsidised diesel. The present allocation is termed as inadequate by the fishers.
The anglers are also looking forward to a reduction in the price of diesel and raw materials as they are said to be facing severe losses putting their livelihood under a question.
Fishing activity depends on carpenters, painters and net menders. Those making fishing boats need exceptional knowledge of the trade to make it sail ready and safe for the seas. But their long pending demand to increase allocation of subsidised diesel is yet to be met.
The present subsidised diesel allotment of 1,800 litre per month was fixed almost 20 years back, lamented A Thajudeen, General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Meenavar Peravai. “The sizes of the boats have increased from 32 feet to 90 feet and the fuel capability has drastically changed over the period. The engine capacity has increased. But we are still forced to settle with an allotment fixed long back”, he said.
Fishers from the East Coast practice two methods for mechanised boat fishing. They are called gill trawl net fishing. Thajudeen listed many reasons why the government should immediately revise the quantity of diesel subsidy.
“The fishers who prefer gill nets choose deep sea fishing and they return once every 10 days. All through the period, their engines run and for each turn they need at least 4,500-to-5,000 liters diesel. The trawl net boats return on alternate days and need at least 10 litres per hour. The allotment of diesel under subsidy scheme is so limited that they are forced to buy much of their requirement from the open market. This makes fishing costlier,” said Thajudeen.
D Sakthivel, a Nagapattinam fisherman who owns a mechanised boat, said the investment for each fishing turn is constantly on the rise, major expense being diesel. “The monthly subsidised allotment of 1,800 litres can be used only for 25 percent of our monthly venture and we are forced to spend more due to various taxes which are not applicable to us,” Sakthivel said.
In fact, the fishermen are also entitled to pay the road tax and green tax along with the diesel they purchase. “The mechanised boats are operated in the sea and not on the road If such taxes are not imposed on, we can get diesel at Rs 50 per litre,” Thajudeen wondered.
Terming the 61 days of ban period as too long, the fishers asked the government to revise the number of days to 45 which was practised earlier. While the Tamil Nadu Marine Fishing Regulation act 1983 directs the fishing ban from April 15 to June 14 in the East Coast for facilitating fish breeding, the fishers said that the actual breeding season is the monsoon time that falls from the month of November to December and not the summer time as followed based on the regulation.
“If the fishing ban period is followed during the monsoon times, that is, November and December, it would be helpful for the fishermen. They could avoid fishing when the sea is very rough. It would also help reduce fishermen missing incidents. When the ban period is fixed on summer days, that is April to June, the boats get dried away causing severe damages to its structure. The government should revise the fish ban period,” said M Murugan, a fishermen association office bearer from Sethubavachatram in Thanjavur.