Swathantra Matsyathozhilali Centre president Lal Koyilpparambil has accused the Fishermen Coordination Committee of cheating fishermen by agreeing to raise Lelakkizhivu to 15 per cent. Lelakkizhivu is an informal arrangement in which fishermen willingly forgo a certain percentage of the actual auctioned price of the catch thus benefitting retailers.

At a press meet, Mr. Koyilpparambil called for the intervention of Kerala State Cooperative Federation for Fisheries Development (Matsyafed) to stop this exploitation of fishermen whereby they were denied the actual price of their catch. “But this is unlikely, as Matsyafed is headed by V. Dinakaran who also helms the Fishermen Coordination Committee,” he said. Who gave Coordination Committee the right to take away the fishermen’s rightful dues from them, Mr. Koyilpparambil asked.

The fishermen were ignorant about the rise in price of the fish and were taken for a ride by the retailers who convince them that the reduction in auction price was to compensate the higher price they quoted in the heat of the auction. But the retailers were making a kill by selling the fish to exporters at the actual quoted price before deduction, he said. Fishermen were not in a position to protest against the unfair practice as the organised retailers silence them by boycotting their boats.

“The Fisheries Department and Matsyafed hardly have any control over fishing and marketing. While the fisheries department is focusing its attention on fish farming and housing projects, Matsyafed has been relegated to a mere credit society,” Mr. Koyilpparambil alleged.

He called for strong legislation by the State government to put an end to the exploitation of fishermen while challenging the Fishermen Coordination Committee to come up with a pilot Bill for the consideration of the government. Mr. Koyilpparambil said such legislation should make for the payment of the full auction price to fishermen thus ending the unfair practice of Lelakkizhivu.

“In fact, such reduction in auction price should be considered a financial crime, entailing strict penal action by the police,” Mr. Koyilpparambil said.

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